“Would you like to have some coffee before we get started, Kevin?” Meghan Fink, owner of Pasadena Sandwich Company asked me with a gleeful smile on her face. That’s what it’s all about here in the Pasadena Sandwich Company, customers first.
Pasadena Sandwich Company (PSC) is a family-owned restaurant that has been operating in the town of Pasadena, California for over 20 years. This family style restaurant is a costumer-oriented company, placing customers’ satisfaction at the core of their business mission, and treating each one like a family member. After their dad passed away 5 years ago, the Fink siblings decided to keep the restaurant that their dad has built from the ground up by running it together. Jonathan, the youngest of the 4, comes in to work every day at 6:30am just to roast the meat that they would serve later in the day. I had the blessed opportunity to have a little chat with Meghan, who was very happy to help me, about the economy and how her company works.
PSC has been described by Meghan herself as a company that is impacted by a secular shift. Since food is a necessity good, and is inelastic in economic terms, business has been steady for the past few years. Since the Pasadena community is rather small, as compared to big cities such as Los Angeles, people are always around to drop by for a quick lunch break. “The only time of the year where business is slow would be in August,” explained Meghan. “People go to vacations in August so that’s the only real impact we see on our sales.” However, since the pattern happens every year, the company knows what is coming on every August and hence are not impacted in a significant way. Also worth mentioning, was Meghan’s own little theory of how more people would come in to the restaurant at the second day of the day when there’s a weird weather pattern. “On a rainy day, the restaurant will be quiet, however, a day after that the restaurant will be crowded with customers!” Meghan laughed as she explained her theory.
When asked about whether the 2008 recession did a major impact on the restaurant, Meghan explained how in 2008, which was when her dad was still running the restaurant, they did not see a crazy hit on the company. Because of the reasonable price that they have kept for many years, and the great quality and quantity the restaurant served, people were still coming in the restaurant regularly amidst the recession. The only impact they see during the recession was to their catering business, which slowed down as compared to previous years.
The company, which is impacted most by the retail trade sales and food services sales has faced a few challenges over the years. One of which was the recent drought that the state of California is facing. Due to the recent drought, there has been a shortage of the supply of roast beef. This is a challenge for the company as beef is one of the core ingredients they use for their sandwiches. Another factor that affected their supply is the bird flu. To my surprise, Meghan revealed to me that the bird flu, is in fact happening right now! Due to the bird flu, there have been changes to the price of poultry meat such as chicken and turkey by the providers of PSC. However, Meghan also explained how the company has been loyal to their providers, whom they have been in business with ever since PSC is opened and hence even if prices were to increase, it will increase by only a little amount.
“Being a small business in California is also becoming more challenging,” Meghan explained. “The state is passing fewer and fewer things, and recently, they only declared 3 days of sick pay for the whole year!” That impacts the business as man-power is one of the company’s main resources. Since PSC is a small business, they do not have that much of a resource. There’s a total of 10 employees, including the 2 siblings, Jon and Meghan who are running the store. “If they raise minimum pay to $15 an hour, that will be what impact the business the most.” Explained Meghan. When asked if rising rates play a role in their business, Meghan simply replied, “Not really, tax goes up, and people go upset! But they still come in regularly, it is what it is.”
Being a part of a community that has a close relationship with each other have also helped PSC to become the successful company that they are today. PSC does marketing locally, they support schools and non-profit organizations and company by giving gift certificates. PSC is very big on the “Community for community” service, proven by the recent “Gobble Tournament” they did for a local high school where they fed football teams. Moreover, Cal Poly Pomona has just recently used PSC for one of their marketing class as an example of a company that helps the community by serving them, and in turn, the community helps them back. The customers of PSC have gone as far as helping them set up their social media, without even being asked! PSC’s popular social media sites such as Yelp, Facebook, and even their own website were set up by their own customers. Their customers do it for them as a part of the strong community support that they have for one another.
Operating a business by yourself might be a very challenging and risky thing to do, considering the roller coaster pattern of our economy, but with the help of family and a strong community, a small business can soar to great heights, as evidenced by PSC’s on going success.