Carlo Ruggiero | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Carlo Ruggiero


Kono Pizza is an imported restaurant concept selling cone-shaped pizza, which Carlo Ruggerio brought to the U.S. from Italy in 2013. Kono Pizza operates in Orlando, Fla.; Arlington, Mesquite and Houston, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Lancaster, S.C.; and Jersey City and Cherry Hill, N.J.; and is expecting to open several more franchises this year.

The Mistake:

Because of my Italian background – you know, where every meal is a feast and we spend 10 hours with a million friends around a table – I thought that bigger was better [when we brought Kono Pizza franchises from Italy to the U.S.]. I thought about it with seating, with candles, where people would actually come in and spend hours, but obviously I was wrong. It slowed our initial growth, because it took forever to find a location. Real estate was tough to find; initial setup costs were too high.

I didn't conduct enough market research for our product, especially because Kono Pizza was a new product that was coming from another country. Bringing it here it felt like I was driving a car from point A to point B without direction. We missed a crucial step.

I believe the biggest step that we missed was not studying and interviewing the right prospects. I had friends saying to me that they loved the concept, they loved the product, “Oh my God, you'll do so well” … instead of talking to real customers about their needs and expectations of Kono Pizza.

It's not about what I like to eat, it's about the market.

The Lesson:

I love this quote: “Patience, this is the greatest business asset. Wait for the right time to make your moves.” And obviously, I didn't. I rushed it. I rushed Kono.

We now take our time and conduct all types of market research and collect as much data as possible. Before we launch anything—even a menu item—we taste it, we ask the corporate stores, we try it for a couple months and ask if the customers' feedback was positive, and if not, then we're not going to do it.

It's not about what I like to eat, it's about the market—and 99 percent of the market is different from what I would like to eat.

Follow Kono Pizza's flagship store on Twitter at @konopizzanj

Pictured: Carlo Ruggiero | Photo courtesy of Kono Pizza.

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