When his Navy father moved their family to Columbus, Ohio, in 1972, Steve Pryor figured he may as well start his career in the food industry. Pryor landed his very first restaurant job when he was just in ninth grade.
The career path stuck. Over the course of 20 years, Pryor climbed the restaurant ladder up to general manager, working for prominent chains like Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesday and Applebee’s.
Pryor’s first interview for a position within Penn Station East Coast Subs was with Kevin Osterfeld, president of Cincinnati-based franchisee P.S. MGMT, Inc. which owned six units at the time. Osterfeld brought Pryor on as general manager in 1996, and he’s been with Penn Station ever since.
After three years with P.S. MGMT, Pryor was promoted to Operations Director along with his colleague, Keith Gavin. After another nine years of hard work developing and opening stores together as a team, Pryor was named Vice President of Operations. The team had grown to 18 Penn Station stores in the Dayton and Cincinnati markets, solidifying P.S. MGMT’s place as one of the brand’s largest and most successful franchisees.
In March of 2018, with Osterfeld’s encouragement, Pryor left P.S. MGMT to pursue a managing owner opportunity with HB3 LLC, another franchisee of Penn Station. HB3 owned four struggling units that were in need of Pryor’s well-seasoned touch, and he was up for the challenge.
“When I came on, the restaurants were underperforming. We had to fix a lot of things,” said Pryor, who spent most of last year revamping operations and getting everything under control. “Now, we’re expanding. We are in negotiations about opening a fifth unit, and are hoping to open a sixth by the end of the year.” HB3 has plans in motion to continue its momentum and grow to 10 stores in the coming years.
As a managing owner, Pryor lives for the ever-changing day-to-day challenges and loves constantly interacting with people. “I can’t sit and do the same job every day,” he said. “I like going out and making a difference.”
Pryor is humble about the impressive feats he’s personally accomplished, crediting his successful career to mentors like Osterfeld.
“I grew with Kevin. We learned together. I have been able to achieve high standards through what he taught me, and in turn, it’s paying dividends now. In my new business, I’m executing operations the same way he did,” said Pryor.
One of the biggest lessons Pryor absorbed was to follow Penn Station’s guidance and recommendations to a T. “Penn Station’s concept is cookie-cutter,” said Pryor. “If you can go in and follow their manual to the letter and execute exactly as they say, your sales grow. We pride our stores on scoring well on performance evaluations.”
Penn Station sets franchisees up for success by providing ongoing support, resources and inviting all requests for assistance. “Corporate is there for you, no matter what your situation,” he said. “They help by identifying things that aren’t aligned with the manual. It’s just up to you as the franchisee to coach your general managers to make sure they understand how to improve.”
This flexibility and encouragement from corporate are further demonstrated through the ongoing training platform all Penn Station affiliates gain access to. “You can find anything you need on it,” said Pryor, an avid proponent of the system. “You can call the contact assigned to the topic for reference or more input. Corporate is just a phone call away, and they always understand.”
Pryor has benefited from Penn Station’s willingness to work with individual team members to help them achieve their goals. Pryor was assisted with an in-kind option for paying off his equity when he bought in as an owner. “My equity is a combination of cash and sweat. I’m working down my debt,” he explained. “If you want an opportunity, Penn Station will give it to you.”
In Pryor’s eyes, the number one benefit that’s unique to Penn Station is the 50/50 split of leftover profits with general managers after the franchise overhead has been met. “There are no caps, no ceilings, no limits to how much money you can make,” said Pryor. “The better you perform operationally, the closer you get to achieving your goals in life through Penn Station. I’ve never worked for a company like that. I never want to work for another restaurant.”
Despite his humble demeanor, a clear key to Pryor’s success is his own determination and commitment to hard work. That do-it-yourself attitude doesn’t hurt his bottom line, either.
“Today I did some sight surveying in Tiffin,” explained Pryor. “Then I spent some time at the new Findlay location that we’re building. Tomorrow I get to fix a toilet in Lima. I do it all to save money. Why call a plumber to put a handle on when I can do it for $10?”
For more information on Penn Station franchise opportunities visit www.penn-station.com/franchise/