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History: Dispatch Article   
Quality pays off
Some restaurants survive hard times by cutting costs, not corners
Tuesday,  January 27, 2009 3:09 AM

The restaurant industry has been thinned by the recession, but among the survivors are some names familiar to generations of central Ohio diners: JP's Barbeque Ribs and Chicken, TAT Ristorante di Famiglia, Ding Ho and Terita's Pizza.

If you ask their owners the secrets to their longevity, don't expect mention of secret recipes or clever marketing. The maxims are more basic:

� Become part of the neighborhood.

� Provide good food at a reasonable price.

� When times get tough, cut expenses where you can but don't ever cut corners.

"We're part of the neighborhood, and the people know that we're here for them," said Jimmy Corrova, 74, whose father, a Sicilian immigrant, started a restaurant in 1929 in Flytown, now known as Victorian Village. Corrova's TAT once included four restaurants, but Corrova dialed back in the mid-'70s for health reasons and focuses now on a single restaurant at S. James Road and Livingston Avenue.

"We help out with food, donations and support for different groups," Corrova said. He even provides food for mourners at a nearby funeral home if the family can't afford it.

At JP's Barbeque, J.P. and Carole Makar have lived their motto, "We Feed The People," for all of J.P.'s 46 years in the business.

"We've always had a menu where you could have a slab of ribs or a hot dog so people could always find something to eat at our restaurant," said Makar, who with his daughters runs two stores, the original at 1072 E. Main St. and a restaurant and catering center at 2000 Norton Rd., next to Bolton Field.

"And if somebody came in and didn't have enough for a hot dog, he'd probably end up with some food," daughter Carol Makar added.

At Terita's, value -- both of the customer and of the product -- is king. Tom Iannarino learned the meaning of value from his dad, Gus, who opened the store at 3905 Cleveland Ave. in 1959.

Iannarino said his dad taught him two things: "Treat the customer like gold," and, "if you cheapen the product, you're going to hurt yourself."

"What's kept us around so long is the quality," Iannarino said. For example, "we make our own sausage. We pick up the pork down at Falter's every couple of days. There's no junk in it.

"We could have saved a lot of money on product, but we stuck with the higher quality through good times and bad, and it's paid off."

Corrova agrees.

"Keep your quality up all the time. You can cut managers' time and maybe some hours for others. But buy quality food -- although you look for bargains."

Stephen Yee has learned how to trim costs at Ding Ho, 120 Philippi Rd., without disturbing the product that his grandfather Clifford Yee entrusted to him.

"We offer half-price specials on certain days," Yee said. "It lowers our profit margin even to zero, but that's to keep the customers."

To deal with the bottom line, he's watching overhead and cutting hours. Waitresses vacuum their own stations now, and Yee takes his own truck to pick up supplies to avoid delivery charges.



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