Robert Chinsky’s career in the restaurant business began when he was just 15 years old. Today, the multi-unit Penn Station franchisee owns 17 locations throughout the Indianapolis area and is not done expanding.
As a high-schooler, Chinsky found weekend work at a deli in St. Louis, where he lived. Unlike most kids with a weekend or after-school job, Chinsky was not just putting an extra few bucks in his pocket, he was taking the first step toward what would become an enviable career in restaurant management and ownership.
While Chinsky was in college, he was offered a job managing a local restaurant, and he jumped on the opportunity. Soon enough, he’d earned a reputation as a go-getter with a rock-solid work ethic in the local restaurant scene. That reputation set Chinsky up for the opportunity of a lifetime when a family friend decided Chinsky might be well suited to help out with a franchise concept he was developing called Penn Station.
“I grew up with Sheri, Jeff Osterfeld’s [founder of Penn Station] wife,” said Chinsky. “Sheri’s dad, Mickey, knew that I'd been working hard at the restaurant, and he asked me to come to Cincinnati to manage a Penn Station that he owned. I was still managing my local restaurant. I told him, ‘Mickey, I already manage a restaurant, I don’t want to manage a Penn Station, I want to own a Penn Station.’ Mickey wanted me on board, so he sold me his store in Cincinnati. Mickey was an amazing support system for me for years, and eventually we became official business partners.”
Chinsky worked hard to drive sales for the nascent brand, finding new ways to make his store as successful as possible within the franchise system Osterfeld had developed.
“We had this amazing product,” Chinsky said. “That’s not a brag. I didn’t create it—it’s just phenomenal food, so it’s an easy sell. Once we got people through the door, that was it; they tried the food and they were hooked. So I knew what a unique product we had, and we worked hard to get the name out there.”
That type of individual-franchisee support is not unusual for Penn Station, in fact, Penn Station CEO Craig Dunaway told us it’s a cornerstone of the model.
“We are hypersensitive to a franchisee’s profitability,” Dunaway said. “We’re able to give franchisees the tools necessary for them to monitor and track their costs and profits. We know what every line item on P&L should look like, and we can help them identify waste.”
Chinsky’s drive to grow the brand eventually moved him from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, where Osterfeld saw an opportunity to rapidly expand. Chinsky took over a company owned unit and became an area representative for the development team in the Indianapolis market. For years, Chinsky continued to find the support and encouragement from corporate to open up location after location. Now with 17 Penn Station restaurants under his ownership, Chinsky is enjoying his success and runs a team that helps him manage his empire.
“I’ve got a lot of extra help, and the process is still streamlined, said Chinsky. “All my team members are part of this really simple, well-oiled machine that Penn Station has engineered.”
Efficient operations are a hallmark of the Penn Station model, which has been designed to maximize simplicity in every facet of the business, right down to the menu.
“All of our operations are streamlined and entirely scalable,” said Dunaway. “Everything is clean and simple. Our menu features a few simple products used in a number of different menu items. We have one type of bread, one type and cut of chicken, etc.”
“They’ve supported me every step of the way,” said Chinsky. “They helped me grow, and now they are helping me transition into a new kind of lifestyle. And I still love what I do. The restaurant industry is a singular breed, and it can be tough work, but Penn Station makes it easier.”