Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tom Greco, co-owner, and COO of The Original Thunderbird Steakhouse & Catering, located in Broomall, PA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I own and operate a family restaurant named The Original Thunderbird with my brother Billy. We operate the business in its original location in Broomall was founded in 1956 by my grandfather Sal. We now have our fourth generation of family running the business. Our customers are great; they are made up of so many types, from those who have been coming since "the early days" to professionals, teachers, road crews, retired police officers, or people just passing through town. However, for many types of customers, one thing is certain: the destination. Many of our customers go out of their way and travel for some distances to get a TBird fix.
Tell us about yourself
My first job was doing prep at Thunderbird on the weekends when I was a teenager. Working with my family and the many legacy staff members taught me a lot. I eventually began working there full-time, became a partner, and now am the COO.
I love what I do, it's hands-on work, and you meet a lot of interesting people. After 35 years, I still love making food into something delicious, and the customers can tell. Sandwiches, Pizza, Salads, making dough. If I weren't the best or didn't know everything to teach what I preach, I'd be in trouble.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
One of my biggest accomplishments as an owner has been watching the growth of the business. In 2018 we were recognized for the "Best Cheesesteak" and since have won the award four years in a row. I also am proud that the business has evolved and kept up with the current trends that our customers expect, like offering catering, online ordering, and expanding the menu to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing that comes with being an owner is staying on top of the business. Competition from other local restaurants and corporate companies has changed the landscape forever. Small businesses have to compete against the likes of Dominos, Wawa, Chick filet, and Chipotle. These large corporate franchises offer multiple convenience ordering options like UberEats, Grubhub, and Door Dash, most of the time with incentives like rewards, discounts, and free items. These companies generate a huge vacuum small businesses get sucked into, and that is where the trouble starts. It's impossible to compete with these companies, and we don't try to.
Some businesses resort to inflating their prices to cover the costs of using these types of services. We do not use these services anymore because they hurt us, so in 2019 we created our own Online Ordering system. It has been a huge success.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be passionate about the dream you are making a reality. It's a great feeling to wake up and do what you love for yourself. It starts with you.
- Taste what you are serving and remember to make everything you serve as if you were making it for your mother.
- Be a student of your business. You will never know everything. Listen to the customers first, last, always.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Lastly, set your standard high. The quality of our product and services, the trained cooks and wait staff have never been more important to a business. Make it a goal every day.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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