Jim Patrinos, Owner, Primanti Brothers’:
First, can you let readers know how Primanti Brothers’ got started and how you took over ownership?
Back in 1974, I went to the Strip one day to visit my favorite sandwich shop and it was closed – and had a for sale sign on the door. I thought to myself this was a busy little place and so unique – so I called the number and a few weeks later the deal with Dick Primanti was done.
You’ve continued to expand into new areas – what’s your most recent expansion and what’s next for Primanti’s in general?
Our most recent expansion was in Mt. Lebanon. We like to purchase the buildings and property where we expand and the opportunity came up for a great location on the corner of Route 19 in the South Hills. We just opened in June and so far the community has welcomed us with open arms.
You’ve become a part of the culture of Pittsburgh – how does that put a different kind of pressure and expectation for you as a business and how do you handle that?
It does put some pressure on us. Pittsburgh is a city with raving fans who love their sports teams and their heritage. We have become part of that tradition and we’re honored.
Are you concerned about getting too big and perhaps losing your local “charm”?
That’s part of the reason we are not franchised. We are asked everyday about expanding to cities all over the country. It’s a Pittsburgh thing right now. I have expanded to Florida with another partner that is from Pittsburgh but right now that is as far as we will go.
Why do you think Primanti’s has done so well in Pittsburgh – is this a restaurant that could survive in every city, or do you think it’s more geared towards blue collar cities like Pittsburgh?
It certainly started by catering to the blue collar, truck-driving steel workers of Pittsburgh but now we’ve seen such a growth in the food culture that we have become a “foodie destination”. Rachel Ray was in last week.
How much of your success relies on the local sports and music industry, and how so?
Oh, when the Steelers win, we win! I think every business in the hospitality industry can attest to that. But we do have specials during sporting events that really do help increase sales.
You’ve managed to gain a great deal of media attention over the years. What’s behind that success and what makes Primanti’s so fun?
Yes, we’ve been very fortunate. We have a great PR company that stays on top of all the buzz in and around the city. We have been on the Travel Channel three times in the last year and a half…like I said…the traveling “foodies” helps!
What is the biggest misperception you think people have about Primanti’s?
We are about our sandwich; it is our number one priority and the butter on our bread per se! But we do have expanded menus and sports bars in the suburbs. In particular, we sell fresh made-from-scratch hand-tossed pizza and breaded wings that customers just love.
How much interaction have you had with the local sports players, and how so?
Of course they have ALL been to Primanti’s. It’s fun for us when new recruits come to town. It’s one of the first things they have to do!
How much do you work with the teams themselves in your promotions.
We do have a location in each of the three sports venues and once in a while we will partner with the teams on charity events and PR opportunities as they arise.
Any last thoughts for readers?
We’re honored to be the city’s Sandwich and hope that we continue to provide quality ingredients with great service at all of the Primanti’s twenty locations.