22/05/2022

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Nick Vojnovic grows chain places to eat. The previous president of Beef ‘O’Brady’s is now president of Very little Greek Clean Grill and also Inexperienced Current market Cafe. In 10 decades, he expanded Very little Greek from 4 dining places in two states to 44 in six states. He been given the 2021 Silver Plate award from the Global Food stuff Services Producers Affiliation for career achievement and neighborhood assistance in the category of speedy-casual eating places.

He is also the recipient of a bone marrow transplant for a fatal blood disorder identified as myelofibrosis. A single woman in 26 million folks proved to be a genetic match — a then-22-calendar year-aged American University university student named Caroline Gómez. Her donation gave him a 60 % possibility of surviving. It will be 5 yrs in January.

“I’m a fortunate male,’’ he claims.

Vojnovic, 62, of Tarpon Springs, talked with the Tampa Bay Occasions about the chain cafe company and the disease that would have killed him.

You graduated from Cornell University. What was your key?

My young brother and I both of those (majored in), they named it lodge administration. At Cornell, we had been deemed the knuckleheads. We were being the fellas, “What is your exam, how to set a table?” We pretty much would be walking up the hill with chef coats. We were being not extremely properly-revered at Cornell University.

What are the risks of expanding a chain restaurant? Can you do it way too swiftly?

That’s a single of the faults we manufactured, I believe, at Beef ‘O’Brady’s. We grew way too quick. We were being performing 50 suppliers a yr, and what transpires is you get started dashing the areas. You pick areas, “Well, it’s near sufficient.” The price tag to construct them received high. It was ‘07, ‘08, the financial state was booming, and the design charges jumped up. So we sold the organization in ‘08 and when the financial state turned, a whole lot of merchants closed.

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There’s two distinct sorts of dining establishments. There’s corporations like Outback that open up all their individual restaurants. They own them, they signal leases, they make them. And then most restaurant chains are franchises — Taco Bell and McDonald’s and all that. Which is sort of what I do now. We franchise. We offer a franchise product and they spend a payment — normally proper now $30,000 — to form of get the rights to open a retail store. We obtain the site, negotiate the lease. We aid them design and style it we help them establish it. We teach them, we give an opening device aid workforce, and then we give ongoing help.

What’s the critical to building them a results?

The vital for me is a very good operator-operator. If you’re not a very good proprietor-operator, I simply cannot assurance that you’re going to make cash. You have to be a very good businessperson, choose superior treatment of your customers, operate a cleanse cafe, make guaranteed the food’s great — higher high quality and clean up and fresh. You’ve got to be on top rated of your recreation.

Nick Vojnovic, president of the Little Greek Fresh Grill chain, received a bone marrow transplant in 2017.
Nick Vojnovic, president of the Tiny Greek Refreshing Grill chain, acquired a bone marrow transplant in 2017. [ Photo: Courtesy of Little Greek Fresh Grill ]
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If a franchisee is not performing well, it tarnishes the impression of the entire chain, does not it?

Right. In 10 a long time, we experienced 1 shop shut. … We’ve had a number of offer. But, usually, if you are not very good, we find a person to purchase you out. From time to time some men and women just are not reduce out for the small business.

How are you influenced by the worker and offer scarcity?

Appropriate now, you can’t get workforce, you cannot get food. I just acquired a phone contact: Our suppliers in Dallas, they are out of baklava. They have to wait around two weeks for one more order of baklava for the reason that it is coming from Tarpon Springs from Hellas Bakery. That’s in no way occurred. In 10 years we’ve never experienced a shortage like that. … The men who make our pita bread claimed, “Nick, we can make pita bread. We have the bag, but we really do not have the minimal clip that goes on the bag.” … Little matters ruin the total deal. If you really do not have the clip, you just can’t do it.

Are restaurants likely to have to increase salaries?

Certainly. … We have to move that on. Our earnings margins are 15 percent on a very good day. … Usually in the restaurant organization your wages are 30 % of your expenditures. So if both food stuff and labor go up, we have to move that on just to be capable to preserve them open. … I imagine, just conversing to my business pals, you are likely to see restaurant (price ranges) go up 10 p.c. That is just to even try to hold up with what we were earning just before. You are not creating far more money, you are just attempting to keep up.

You observed out about your blood illness when you signed up to donate bone marrow for a youngster with leukemia, you say.

And I bought picked, and all of a unexpected they stated, “We just can’t use you.” I stated, “What do you imply, I’m healthful as an ox. I’ve never ever been in a medical center a day in my lifestyle.” “Something’s improper with your blood.’’ … Instead of being oval, like ordinary blood cells, mine were being teardrop-formed with a very little place, so they wouldn’t past as extensive. But my bone marrow could keep up. Nicely, more than the next 15 several years the bone marrow begun sporting down, and that is (when) my pink counts … they started heading down. And so I went in there, and the gal states you’ve got 1 to 3 decades to reside.

Ah, horrible.

And (they) claimed, very well, the only great thing is you’re a great prospect to get a stem cell transplant, but it is a 60/40 p.c survival fee.

And then Caroline Gómez came into the photograph.

They claimed you have to wait around a 12 months to meet up with her, mainly because if you die, we do not want her to be dissatisfied. … Most people really don’t make it by the to start with year. … Caroline Gómez saved my existence.

Do you retain in contact?

Yeah. I’m hoping to get invited to her wedding. She life up in D.C. My daughter acquired married past 12 months and they came down for the marriage ceremony.

And you’re sensation superior?

Aside from using 8 supplements a working day, I would not know I was ill. I’m in the leading 10 percent of the patients. I’m a blessed person.

So I go to the seashore every evening to catch the sunset, to be thankful for an additional working day. … Sunset Seaside, each and every night time if the weather conditions is excellent, and I do an hour wander and I sit down on the identical bench and I enjoy the sunshine go down. As I normally notify my pals … it is a superior working day to be alive.

If you are fascinated in currently being a bone marrow donor, go to bethematchfoundation.org.