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Changes coming . . . Former Oamaru Filadelfios restaurant franchise owners Graham and Racquel Balfe will open Oscars Pizza Co in the same Thames St premises this month. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

Changes are happening in the Oamaru pizza world.

Filadelfios restaurant in lower Thames St is to transform into Oscars Pizza Co and a new pizza place is opening in the North End.

After four years, owners Graham and Racquel Balfe are no longer associated with the Filadelfios franchise, which still has two restaurants in Dunedin, after they decided they wanted to go it alone.

Mr Balfe said the split was a long time coming and he believed it was time for a fresh start.

“Basically, for the last few years, it’s kind of got tougher and tougher for us here in Oamaru.

“There’s a lot of new people in the food sector doing a lot of different things and we have struggled to keep up, I guess.

“It got to the point where we were thinking of walking away and Filadelfios didn’t want the restaurant back to operate it themselves, so an option came up to go alone. We thought about that and jumped at it.”

He said being an independent operator would give the couple the chance to do exactly what they wanted with the Thames St premises in every respect, from the front of house to the all-important menu.

Those who frequent the restaurant will see some subtle changes, which Mr Balfe believed would offer people a better dining experience overall.

“It gives us a chance to still do something very similar so we’re going to stick to pizzas, but being independent allows us to adapt the menu as we get to try different things.

“We’re going to scale back a bit and focus on the pizzas, but we will still do sides like chips and salads and stuff like that.

“It will also let us reduce the price. There will be a few new pizzas, too.”

The restaurant’s decor will also be upgraded, creating what Mr Balfe describes as a “whole new look”.

The aim was to create a “nice, family-friendly kind of place” in terms of both food and atmosphere, he said.

Many have asked what will happen to the restaurant’s famous yellow wall, which is covered with messages and drawings left by hundreds of people who have dined there.

Mr Balfe said a “permanent record” was being made, which would be displayed when the restaurant reopened around May 13-14.

More pizza choice will be available to Oamaru customers when The Pizza Place opens in the North End.

The takeaway restaurant is set to open its doors within the next couple of months.