When Kevin Osterfeld first fell in love with Penn Station, the sandwich restaurant had not yet become a franchise.
While he worked as a stockbroker in Cincinnati in the 1980s, Kevin’s brother Jeff, a budding local entrepreneur, had started putting together the pieces of what would later become Penn Station. Jeff saw the opportunity to introduce the Cincinnati market to the delicious Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches the brothers both loved. As Penn Station started to take shape, Kevin continued plugging away in the financial world, but he was getting restless, and he couldn’t help feeling drawn to the freedom his brother had found in owning his own business.
Fortunately for Kevin, Jeff had big plans for his restaurant concept, and he’d need help executing his idea.
“I was out with Jeff, talking about how I was done with being a stockbroker and how I wanted to get out of the business,” Kevin said. “Jeff wanted to franchise the business, so we started talking about that and decided that I should get involved.”
Kevin went in with Jeff and purchased one of the three original Penn Station locations just as the brand began franchising.
Penn Station has expanded rapidly and consistently since franchising, opening more than 300 locations across 15 states, and Kevin’s operation has grown in step. This year, he opened his 18th Penn Station restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, where he’s built out the entire market.
Today, Kevin is one of the largest owners in the Penn Station franchise system. He says his growth is not just the result of early adoption but also an aggressive pursuit of expansion.
“It’s always been about the chase for me,” he said. “That’s the most fun part of this business, without question. I love surveying a market and figuring out a scheme to optimize the next location. Then visiting potential sites, negotiating a lease, building the store, hiring a staff and watching the grand opening. That process is my favorite part of the business. That’s why I keep growing.”
Kevin says the ability to expand has only gotten easier as the Penn Station franchise system has grown. Increased brand awareness has allowed him to open new stores without having to sell the concept to new customers, and the company’s larger unit-count has increased his purchasing power.
“Every time I open up a new store in Dayton, more of the city knows me and knows Penn Station, and they are eager to have us in their town,” Kevin said. “But by far the most important factor in our growth has been the increased buying power. As we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve gotten better and better deals with our vendors, and I pay a lot less for products now than I did when we were just starting out.”
Kevin also attributes much of his success to the strength of his staff, something he encourages all Penn Station franchisees to place a premium on.
“All of what I’ve accomplished was made possible by the people I’ve surrounded myself with,” he said. “You can’t run one restaurant by yourself, let alone 18. I’ve been lucky to have amazing people doing great work at every one of my restaurants. We put a lot of work into hiring the best general managers so that they can build out quality crews, and Penn Station offers an extensive training and support program to help them nail the operations.”
With his 18th store up and running, Kevin does not have any immediate plans to continue growing his operation, but he admits he’s not likely to turn down a good opportunity.
“Dayton is pretty much entirely built out, so I’m staying put for now,” he said. “But I’ve always been about growth. I got into Penn Station to run a business, not just a restaurant. I knew I wanted to own multiple stores from the start, and I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity I’ve had to get here.”