Harpo – On passion, people and the hunger for excellence
Harpo Gooneratne – owner and restauranteur of famous Colombo hot spots such as Harpo’s pizza, The Commons, Park Street Mews, and Bay Leaf – visited Fortude recently! He took Fortudites on a fascinating life journey – one that is currently revolutionizing Sri Lanka’s culinary industry.
Harpo got his start at St. Thomas’s Mount Lavinia. He was always the life of the class, and this gregarious trend continued into his college career. His main interest was making good friends, which he did through various activities such as drama, the scouts, and rugby.
A naturally positive guy, Harpo has a passion for people. It’s this infectious energy that has fueled him through some life-changing experiences. Since he wanted a career that would let him work with people, he enrolled in hotel school. During this time, his first job was being a DJ on the southern coast. By day, he was learning the ins and outs of the hospitality trade. By night, he kept the toes tapping and people swaying at a famous southern hotel. His magnetism and charisma carried him far down this path, and he helped create the mobile discotheque culture in Sri Lanka.
Thereafter, Harpo entered the hotel industry full time as an Entertainment Manager (EM) at the Ramada Renaissance. He was the very first EM in Sri Lanka. His job was to book international acts to perform at the hotel. Fashion shows from India, and British and American show-stoppers were among the acts making headlines in Sri Lanka. Later on, Harpo became EM at the Hilton Colombo. There, he introduced the Deli Market at the top of the World Trade Center, which was a never-before-seen concept. Entertainment came easily to Harpo – he set up the famous entertainment park, Millennium Park, which is now Excel World.
Suddenly, his life completely changed track when he was asked to manage The Commons, a popular casual dining spot in Colombo’s recreational space. This was it – he had found his future. He was completely in his element in the F&B industry, and later, he bought The Commons. Thus started one of the greatest restauranteur stories in Sri Lanka, one of quality, consistency, and longevity.
Harpo is well-loved by his staff, coworkers, and customers. He has created some truly innovative culinary and leisure spaces, such as Harpo’s Pizza, The Commons, Bayleaf, and Park Street Mews. His core management principle? He treats his team members like family, which means that once they join the team, they never leave. They haven’t just found a job, they’ve found a passion. A passion with a family that cares about their personal and professional development.
Harpo’s recipe for success is to channel positivity into everything he does. And this simple mantra has tided him through some exceptionally tough times, through chaos during the Sri Lankan conflict, and the unpredictable nature of the industry. Throughout it all, he has maintained a successful enterprise because of two things – quality and consistency. The amount of quality has not declined from the start of Harpo’s Pizza, right up to the present day.
Harpo has big plans for the brand, which includes expanding into the food truck arena, another innovative idea in Sri Lanka, and expanding the pizza toppings count of Harpo’s Pizza to thirty! Harpo introduced the concept of the square pizza, and we cannot wait to see what other delicious ideas his restaurants are going to cook up next!