S1E8 | Three Bulls Steakhouse’s Sammy Gianopoulos


EPISODE GUEST: Sammy Gianopoulos

Three Bulls Steakhouse owner Sammy Gianopoulos has had a long success as a restauranteur in the Triad region of N.C. and shares why being a present owner is so important to a restaurant’s success.

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Sammy Gianopoulos has had a long success as a restauranteur in the Triad region of N.C. A close family friend of Albemarle Paper Supply, Gianopoulos also grew up in the restaurant industry working in his dad’s restuarants.

From a young age, he knew he wanted to go to culinary school. After graduating from Johnson & Wales in Charleston, S.C., Gianopoulos got a job as a chef at the famous Biltmore mansion.

The owner of the Biltmore would come in the kitchen, shake the staff’s hands and check in. This lesson in being a present owner stuck with Gianopoulos.

After his time at the Biltmore, Gianopoulos returned to High Point to open a seafood restaurant at the young age of 21. “It was a huge step and the first six months were very tough for me.”

Struggling with whether he had made the right decision stepping into the restaurant role, he reached out to his father who told him to “work hard, take care of the customer and have fresh and plentiful food.” It was these three simple lessons that Gianopoulos decided to live by…and his restaurant exploded.

One day, he was worried about bills, the next he was expanding. He went on to launch restaurant number 2 but not without again seeking advice from his dad. “If you think you’re ready for number two and have the financials set, go for it,” was his father’s advice. So Gianopoulos successfully launched his second restaurant Aquaria.

“One thing that has always helped me is good staff,” says Gianopoulos. “You see someone who wants to grow and you mold them and teach them.”

A year after launching Aquaria, the furniture market authority reached out to open a restaurant in downtown High Point, a mecca for furniture shopping bringing in double the city’s population each year in shoppers.

Gianopolous launched the only full-service, ABC restaurant in the furniture factory. Always a hands-on owner, his understanding and involvement in his community helped lead to his restaurant’s success.

Always active in the community and local charities, he was voted Businessman of the Year by the chamber of commerce.

“One thing we try to teach in our restaurants now – you can go anywhere to get a good steak or a good burger – it’s the hospitality side of it. How do you get people in your doors?” says Gianopoulos. “It’s hard to teach and have that culture but it starts at greeting the customers and doesn’t stop until you bid them farewell.”

“No matter how it’s decorated or how good the food is, if the hospitality’s not there, customers don’t return.”

Gianopoulos says it’s how locally-owned shops compete with the big chains. The owner is in the building.

He creates a workplace culture where every person knows they play an important role and that’s what makes people want to come back. “It starts at the top. If the owners don’t have the right culture that trickles down to the management then you can’t expect your host or dishwasher to act the same way.”

Eventually, with a group of partners he opened the now staple restaurant outside Wake Forest University, Fratelli’s. It’s iconic location near the university helped it become a go-to spot for the college athletic teams over time.

After Fratelli’s, he opened Three Bulls originally as an investment opportunity cause they knew a lot about steakhouses now. Every time they open a new store they bring staff from other locations and move them up

What Gianopoulos has learned opening up restaurants:

1) Have a cushion. He has opened 9 and none have been under budget or completed in the time frame.
2) Have grit. It takes determination, so be mentally prepared for long hours, hard days and failure. As a business owner it’s in your DNA to strive to be your best.
3) Take care of the customer

“When you make your own mistakes you don’t make it twice. Be prepared to fight daily. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario.”

“No matter how it’s decorated or how good the food is, if the hospitality’s not there, customers don’t return.”

– Sammy Gianopoulos, Three Bulls Steakhouse

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