Making customers happy makes Nick happy

Nick's Steakhouse & Pizza founder Nick Petros reminisces about his start in the business and the restaurant's enduring success

Nick Petros is founder of Nick’s Steakhouse & Pizza, which has operated for 40 years in Calgary and is now run by his son Mark.

Tell me about the history of the restaurant and how it started?

Nick: It’s a long story. We started here 40 years ago. I was 43 and now I’m 83. But it’s been a very successful restaurant because we work hard every day.

At that time there were cows outside here in the park. Everybody thought I made a mistake moving into here but it turned out to be a very, very good location and a very good restaurant.

This corner was owned by Jack Singer. When I bought the restaurant, I didn’t own the land and the building. But I always wanted to buy the land and the building – I phoned Jack Singer. I told him I had bought out this Big Boy, a hamburger joint here. We converted to Nick’s and I was thinking that business was good and maybe I should buy the land and the building. He said he remembered me when I was working at Hy’s back in the 1950s and the Epicurean downtown. Fancy restaurants. Tuxedos and all that.

I know lots about restaurants. He said to me, “I’m sorry we don’t sell buildings. We only buy.”

I didn’t know what do to. All of a sudden someone else came on the line. It was Mrs. Singer, Shirley Singer, who I knew very well. And she says, “Whatever you want to do. You want to buy that corner and open up Nick’s Steakhouse, Jack will sell it to you.”

Why do you think you’ve been so successful and able to survive all these years?

Nick: Hard work. We work hard. I’m here for 40 years greeting everybody coming in and making sure they leave happy.

What has been your favourite part of owning a restaurant?

Nick: Everything. The only thing I dislike about this whole 40 years of my hard work is getting old. Everything’s been wonderful. If I was young, I’d start another restaurant down south.

What have you not liked about owning a restaurant?

Nick: If you know what you’re doing and you like what you’re doing, it’s never tough. We’ve gone through our third recession – we’ve gone through them three times already – and we survived every one of them including this one. We’re going to fly through 100 per cent. We don’t worry about anything.

You go to the restaurant every day even though you’re retired. Why?

Nick: I have nothing else to do. Am I going to stay home and do nothing? So I come here. I meet all my friends. I say hello to everybody. I’m happy. I enjoy doing it.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business

nick steakhouse restaurant

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