2009 December: Five Questions

2009 December: Five QuestionsEric Koslowski, owner of Primanti Bros. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, doesn’t seem to be taking the recession lying down. When opportunity knocked, he answered in a big way. Koslowski recently opened a 4,700-square-foot store by negotiating with the building’s owner. As a result, sales are consistently hitting $50,000- plus a week at his newest location.

Q. Why open a new store in an ailing economy?

A: We were able to find that landlords are willing to give very, very long-term favorable leases right now for about 60 cents on the dollar, and we have the option to purchase the property which we probably couldn’t have done years ago. We took over a building that had been an out parcel to a shopping center and the place went bankrupt. It was a seafood restaurant. It is typically $10,000 to $12,000 (a month in rent) for this type of building, and I got it for $8,000. Instead of getting a five-to 15-year lease, I got a 30-year lease. Every single thing we wanted, the landlord was like, ‘Yeah! We want somebody here.’

Q. You’re offering a prixe fixe family night menu on Tuesday and Thursday nights. How is that working for you?

A: We really got a great deal on the property and that being, we were able to have a very economical menu for our customers … Tuesdays and Thursdays we do a 20-inch pizza with three toppings and a pitcher of Coke for $16.99. You can substitute a pitcher of beer for $17.99. Last Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., we sold like 130 of those (packages). It was amazing. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, we have lines.

Q. How is business at your other locations?

A: We actually have 16-percent growth at our two existing restaurants, 2009 versus 2008. Each store grew by 16 percent. People are ‘trading down’ from the higher-end restaurants to more economical ones, but they won’t trade down in quality. We’ll fi nd that we’ll have The Cheesecake Factory– type customer come to our store because even though it’s pizza, it’s great pizza. They’re not going to go out and spend $35 on an entrée, but they’ll go out and get a nice pie and a lasagna as long as it’s good.

Q. What are your goals for 2010?

A: We’re wanting to do five stores total in Broward County. I have one (store) on the ocean, one to the west and one in the center. We want to do one to the north and one to the south.

Q. What advice would you give an operator in a similar situation?

A: If people would go out and look, the buildings are out there. The right pizza product at the right price gives tremendous opportunities right now for operators.