Sharing Success: High School Movie Tickets
Maureen and I recently enjoyed a nice dinner out together before an evening at the movies. Perhaps because of Covid, it had been quite a while since we had visited a theater.
Paying for our tickets, the prices seemed a bit higher than what I expected. They were certainly much higher than the $4 I remember paying back in high school.
Then it hit me. I was comparing “Apples to Oranges.”
Groceria Merante, Pittsburgh, PA
For more than 45 years, Groceria Merante has kept Pittsburgh, PA, locals supplied with premium cut-to-order deli meats and cheeses, hard-to-find imported groceries, specialty hand-packed ice creams, unique whole bean coffees, as well as hot Italian entrees to go.
Owner Filomena Merante says that the 2nd and 3rd generation Italian-American families who originally settled in the neighborhood regularly return from the suburbs for a taste of their favorite foods and to stock up on traditional staples, especially during the holidays.
Key Idea – Besides cooking her Italian entrees with only premium quality ingredients, Filomena credits the enduring success of the family’s cozy 900 square foot shop to her staff’s focus on making every customer’s visit an upbeat, welcoming experience.
Even if they are busy helping someone else, her tight-knit staff makes a point of establishing eye contact and warmly greeting each arriving customer within seconds of entering the store.
Key Idea – The team also doesn’t automatically assume that each guest knows what they want. Instead, they take a consultive sales approach by asking whether the customer has something in mind or if they are looking for something new to try.
Filomena’s 22-year-old son Francesco Lies, who began stocking shelves
at age 4, says their key to building customer loyalty is working to reinforce a personal connection with every guest on every visit.
Key Idea – Getting to know as many regulars’ names as possible is another goal he learned from his mother. As a third-generation leader in the family business, Francesco encourages their team to genuinely ask every customer how their day is going. By consciously working to project an upbeat, positive vibe to each guest, his team helps further elevate customer mood during their visit.
Key Idea – Francesco is finding that younger college- age students are particularly curious about various Italian foods, asking him questions like “How would you recommend using pesto?” In fact, he actively encourages their questions, figuring that if they feel comfortable in their curiosity, they will likely keep coming back. Generation after generation, making each customer feel recognized and appreciated has kept this family business an ongoing success!
In his highly successful 53-year career, fine dining restaurateur Giovanni Galati says his secret to retaining loyal repeat customers over many years (and thousands of dollars of purchases) is unconditionally guaranteeing their complete satisfaction with their meal, period.
Key Idea – So whenever a guest doesn’t appear to care for a dish (even when they don’t complain and even when the meal was perfectly prepared), Giovanni’s servers immediately offer to replace it with something else of the guest’s choosing. They also politely explain that they have comped the disliked item and the replacement if accepted. This additional “generosity” helps guests feel valued and removes any lingering dissatisfaction that could keep them from eagerly returning next time.
Unconditionally guaranteeing satisfaction (not just quality), along with providing consistently superior food, has helped keep Giovanni’s high-end clientele fiercely loyal and reinforced his Word of Mouth reputation for excellence.
Giovanni Galati, Owner
Dominic’s on the Hill
St. Louis, MO
In opening his own place, Adam DiLauro questioned why restaurant industry turnover is so high. As a former sous-chef working for others, Adam believed that, especially for family breadwinners, uncertain work schedules, 6-7 days away from family, late nights, and not being able to count on a full forty-hour paycheck often made “9 to 5” jobs in other industries seem more attractive.
Key Idea – So Adam designed his operations around giving his cooks a dependable 4 day x 10 hour work week (and paycheck) with 3 fixed “off” days including a Saturday or Sunday. He also set business hours to close by 9 PM so employees could see spouses and put kids to bed nightly. As a result, during his first three
years in business, Adam has retained his entire kitchen crew!
Adam DiLauro, Owner
Chagrin Falls, OH
To better stand out from other quality independents, Luca Iovine wanted to keep his decade-old pizzeria feeling fresh and contemporary over time, without losing its traditional vintage vibe.
Key Idea – When Luca first took over a previously occupied pizzeria location, he loved
its brick walls and vintage vibe. To overcome the unfortunate reputation of the prior business, Luca needed to immediately make everything feel visually cleaner and cheerier. The emotional impact of brightly repainting
the entire interior was so dramatic, Luca decided to update his interior paint colors and rehang different pictures every two years to keep his business always feeling fresh and vibrant.
Key Idea – To help give his place a playful vintage personality, Luca also worked
with a graphic artist to design illustrated character“mascots” to feature in his logo, team shirts, and customer swag. different illustrations over time, his ads and swag have shown the mascots engaging in football and other fun
seasonal activities! Not only do customers quickly snap up his mascot “merch,” Luca’s youthful staff likes that
their t-shirt uniforms project the kind of playful, hip vibe that they or their friends might choose for their own off-the-job wardrobe!
As a result, Gianni’s Pizza continues to feel warmly familiar, yet fresh and youthful over time!
Luca Iovine, Owner
La Vera Cucina:
NANA JOSEPHINE/S SFINGE
For Kansas City restaurateur Jasper Mirabile, the aroma of hot sfinge (sveen-jay) or fried Sicilian doughnuts vividly reminds him of his childhood, sitting on his Nana Josephine’s kitchen counter while she made him this traditional treat. While some versions of sfinge are ricotta-filled, Nana Josephine’s version is enjoyed plain, with a dusting of sugar and honey. Jasper warns that these puffy pastries are addictive!
1 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
dash of salt
1 heaping tablespoon vegetable shortening
4-5 cups Fall Harvest olive oil
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons honey
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. When water is boiling, remove pan from heat and add flour, salt, and shortening. Beat well with a fork. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Add olive oil to a deep saucepan (oil depth should be about 2”). Heat oil to 350°F. For each sfinge, spoon 1 tablespoon batter into the hot oil. To avoid crowding the pan, fry sfinge three to five at a time until golden brown on each side, about 4-5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Place finished sfinge and confectioners’ sugar in a brown lunch sack. Shake gently until sfinge are coated with sugar. Serve sfinge warm, in a dish, drizzled with honey!
Similar to zeppole, sfinge are fritters or doughnuts made from unleavened dough. According to restaurateur Jasper Mirabile, sfinge first gained popularity in Palermo’s outdoor market called La Vucciria (la vu-che-ria). Today, street vendors there still sell them by the dozen in little brown paper sacks!