Geno Vento is slowly putting his mark on Geno's Steaks

MICHAEL HINKELMAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Geno's Steaks is a South Philly institution, and CEO Geno Vento had no intention of shutting it down when his father, Joey, died in 2011. And he still wants you to order in English.
MICHAEL HINKELMAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Geno's Steaks is a South Philly institution, and CEO Geno Vento had no intention of shutting it down when his father, Joey, died in 2011. And he still wants you to order in English.
Posted: September 17, 2013

G ENO VENTO, 42, of Penn's Landing, is president and chief executive of Geno's Steaks, the South Philly cheesesteak biz he took over in 2011 after the death of his father, Joey. He recently hired a boutique public-relations firm, Neff Associates, to help him. Geno's Steaks opened in 1966, and Geno started working there at 17. At night, he produced theater, concerts and comedy shows.

Q: When your dad died, was any thought given to closing or selling the biz?

A: I knew I would keep it going. He built a legacy, so it would be stupid for me to shut the doors. Plus I have 30 families to care for, and they would be out of a job.

Q: Any link between Geno's Steaks and your first name?

A: I was named after the place. Actually, I was named after a wall, on which there was graffiti [Gino's, referring to Gino's Hamburgers] and my Dad changed the "i" to "e." I didn't like the name Geno growing up, but now I do.

Q: What changes, if any, do you have in mind for the business?

A: We're doing more teamwork. Dad was hands-on, his way or the highway. I'm doing more publicity, charity and community work. We computerized [cash] registers. Dad was old-school and did things with pen and paper.

Q: For years, there was controversy about the sign next to the window at Geno's: "This is America, when ordering speak English." Your father's dying wish was that you not take that down?

A: Yes.

Q: So that's not happening?

A: I have no intention of taking the sign down.

Q: Why?

A: Because he stood for that, and it has no negative side to it. He wanted it up at his place, so I'm honoring his wishes.

Q: Who are your customers, and are you trying to appeal to a broader audience?

A: You can never settle for what you have; you always want to try bigger and better. We have all walks of life - lawyers, doctors, janitors, teachers, politicians, celebrities, you name it.

Q: You get more tourists, right?

A: Yeah, we get more tourists than local, because we're a national landmark. People see us on TV. Tourists probably make up 60 percent of the business.

Q: What differentiates you from your competitors?

A: I'm good friends with Pat's [Steaks] and Jim's [Steaks]. We respect and don't talk bad about each other. What makes us different is the quality of the meat, the roll we use and how clean we are. We use the top cut of rib-eye, and our roll is soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: We don't talk about it. When we're busy, we sell two to three cheesesteaks a minute.

Q: And how often are you busy?

A: A lot. You're not getting the answer.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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