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Sandwich Savant & Business Guru Fuel Gandolfo’s
The Salt Lake Tribune

PROVO --Craig Gandolph loves the art of making a good sandwich. Dan Pool would rather focus on the bottom line. Together, this odd couple is growing Gandolfo’s from a Utah delicatessen business into a national submarine sandwich phenomenon.

Gandolfo’s was an 11-unit, New York-style sandwich chain operating only in Utah when owner Gandolph met Pool in July 2002. Four months later, Gandolph and Pool, a former restaurant executive, opened the company’s first out-of-state location, in Athens, Ga. Since then, the pair have sold more than 200 franchises and have grown to 35 locations in Utah, Idaho, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

They now are opening about two new locations each week, from Florida to Colorado and Hawaii, and estimate they will sell 1,000 franchises nationwide by 2007. One investor is even interested in opening Gandolfo’s restaurants in Japan.

All this from a pair who easily could have parted ways after their first meeting.

After Pool, a former division president with the Golden Corral restaurant chain, met with Gandolph to talk about franchise opportunities, he immediately peppered Gandolph with questions about the company’s business side -- fixed costs, labor costs, profit margins and the like.

Gandolph, Gandolfo’s chief executive, was immediately uncomfortable. He had left the business side to accountants and other professionals. “I didn’t understand a thing he was talking about,” he said.

Pool was equally frustrated. “I began to think I’d wasted my time,” he said. Then Gandolph suggested Pool try one of his sandwiches.

“It was the best sandwich I had ever tasted,” Pool said. “All of a sudden, we had this bond.”

Gandolfo’s menu -- based on dozens of sandwich combinations, freshly prepared salads and soups -- is a result of Gandolph’s love of the deli business. The sports-motif atmosphere is the result of his lifelong ardor for athletics.

The concept of Gandolfo’s was born when Gandolph, a Long Island native and Mets fan, moved to Provo in 1988 to study sports journalism at Brigham Young University and to be closer to his wife’s family.

After a local deli failed, Gandolph pondered reopening it under his family name, Gandolfo, later changed to the more Americanized Gandolph. His great-grandfather Thomas Anthony had migrated from Genoa, Italy, to Brooklyn in 1878, starting a long family involvement in the food business.

Craig Gandolph had worked in a supermarket deli as a teenager. “I absolutely loved it,” he said.

Gandolph’s wife encouraged him to risk reopening the deli as his own.

He relished such creations as the Urban Cowboy -- a chicken cutlet with roast turkey, bacon, barbecue sauce, pepper jack, cream cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise -- and sandwiches with names like “Damned Yankee,” “Mama Leone, “Real Subway” and “Ebbets Field.”

Gandolph’s creations were a hit. The deli flourished and he abandoned his journalistic aspirations. Over the next decade, Gandolph opened several additional locations along the Wasatch Front, eventually turning them over to longtime employees, who became owners and pay royalties to Gandolph.

He never worried about locations owned by longtime employees, he said, because they know the business so well. For franchise owners with no experience working for the company, Gandolph and Pool designed a rigorous training program to ensure their success. The first step, he said, is selecting the right franchisee candidates.

“We look at them financially -- do they have enough money? -- but we also have to ask ourselves, ‘Do we like these people? Do we think they can do this?’ “ Gandolph said.

One partner they thought had potential was corporate executive Mark Pyper. He initially looked at a Subway or Quiznos franchise, but elected to go with Gandolfo’s instead. “I wanted much more a deli feel, and being from the East, that was really important to me,” he said.

Pyper opened a Gandolfo’s in the Kimball Junction area near Park City in May 2003, a Sandy location a month later and a Midvale store in November. He has secured rights to open additional locations in the southern Salt Lake Valley.

To help monitor all of the new locations, Gandolph and Pool also have established master franchisees for North Carolina, Idaho, Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Seattle, markets they cannot see regularly. The goal: locations as crowded and profitable as the original Provo store, which at times has employees scrambling to serve a line of customers out the door.

Springville resident Greg Parrott came early to the Provo restaurant on a recent weekday to munch on a “Craigster” sandwich of ham, American and feta cheese, cucumber, avocado, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and vinegar.

Parrott eats at other sandwich restaurants, but feels Gandolfo’s is in a different league. “The food is really good, fresh tasting and fast,” he said. “Plus, I like the variety. You can’t find these types of sandwiches anywhere else.”

About Gandolfo's
Gandolfo’s is one of the fastest growing franchises in America, with over 300 stores sold in the last two years. Part of this phenomenal growth can be attributed to strategic marketing, but majority credit must be given to the food. Voted best sandwich every year for the past decade in the state of Utah, where the company is headquartered, Gandolfo’s is that rare combination of taste, value, and ambiance. With stores opening from Orlando to Seattle and many places in between, thousands of loyal customers would agree.


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