Some traditions never get old.
Fine steaks, veal chops, and Dover sole prepared tableside are just some of the traditional Abruzzi cuisine items attracting patrons to the charming La Locanda Ristorante Italiano in Pennsylvania since 1997.
Eighty percent of the customer base is repeat business, says La Locanda Ristorante partner Franco Stefanatto.
“Every year we’re increasing our revenue by 2.5 to 3 percent,” Stefanatto adds.
In this week’s Q&A interview with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Stefanatto offers insights into how the 22-year-old restaurant stands out in the Italian restaurant space.
Q: How does La Locanda Ristorante Italiano compete for customers?
About 80 percent of our business is repeat customers. Our niche is Italian and Mediterranean, with a lot of the finest steak, veal chops, and a Dover sole prepared tableside. I think it’s our menu, especially our Dover sole and veal chop, that attracts our customers.
These items are prepared with plain olive oil and with simplicity, and I believe that’s what people love.
We attract customers through the use of some marketing with local media and magazines, and also with social media—we’re very active on Facebook— and we also keep up with email campaigns.
Q: In 20 years, what has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is always to do with employees and staff. We have had to compete for the best and most qualified people, but competition makes you better. And once we bring on the right person, we have been rewarded by staff loyalty.
Having the right staff is critical to success because mistakes can lead to loss of customers. So, we train our employees well, and keep them happy, so that they, in turn, will value our customers and do all they can to keep them happy.
We have staff who’ve been with us for many, many years.
Q: You’re proud of your wine list, please tell me about that.
Wine is such an important part of a fine meal, and we’re proud that we specialize in Italian and US wines. We don’t offer any French wines, and only one or two Australian wines, because we feel an Italian or Mediterranean meal is best enjoyed with specially selected Italian and American vintages.
We have 75 labels that range in price from $35 a bottle up to $750. We have something for every pallet, to the very refined, to someone who may not have a sophisticated pallet, but who enjoys a nice glass with dinner.
Q: What is your secret to success?
I think our secret is that we know the business of hospitality, and we love it. We spend a lot of time here and we try hard to please everyone. It’s hard. But, the combination of trying to please everyone, with high quality and value has really paid off.
But I’d say 90 percent of our success is loving the business. If you love it, you’re 50 percent there.
Q: What is your background in hospitality?
My background is a bit different: I went to school and studied front-of-house. My interest was in management, food selection, payroll management, and maintaining a profit.
I started school in Northern, Italy, the place of my birth. After school, I traveled the world learning the craft. I worked in fine hotels in Switzerland and France and in Bermuda, I had a wonderful career with the Princess Hotels.
Eventually I came to America for an opportunity to join the famous Monte Carlo Living Room and Primavera Restaurants in Philadelphia. Nine years ago, I joined Mario Palumbi in the successful venture here and I’ve never looked back. — La Locanda Ristorante Italiano uses Boxerbrand menu covers Linen Naturals line in its table presentation. Thank you!