Family-owned Italian Bistro Discovers Critical Keys to Success

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Andiamo Bistro keeps customers coming back with friendly service, flexibility, and attention to detail

Despite employee cuts, several menu changes and increased costs, our main focus has always been customer satisfaction and service

Surrounded by some of the most exclusive and luxurious resorts and restaurants in the country, Najia and Joe Moustafi, owners of Andiamo Bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona, seem to have discovered the golden keys to success amidst this challenging economy. Restaurateurs from Miami, Joe (Sicilian born) and Najia moved to Scottsdale in 1992 with their sons Jason and Michael, where they opened the small and intimate Casa Napoli. Today, the Moustafis celebrate the fourth anniversary of their family-owned and operated Andiamo Italian Bistro, crediting flexibility with the times and personable service as the keys to their success.

“Despite employee cuts, several menu changes and increased costs, our main focus has always been customer satisfaction and service,” says Najia. “The customers should not feel the consequences of cut-backs when they’re in our restaurant; we want them to have the best dining experience possible, regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Although customers say they’re eating more meals at home due to the economy, more than 20% of Andiamo’s clientele remain “regulars”, returning as often as once a week. “Our customers get to know us and they end up sharing their lives with us, and we with them for that warm feeling they don’t get anywhere else,” shares Najia. “Many tell us, ‘When we want to eat out, you’re the first place we think of.’” Big business tends to put revenue first, overlooking the power factor of “person-ability”, putting the customer first on all counts. “We’re grateful for everyone who walks through the door. Our customers are our friends and we treat them as such,” states Najia.

Family-owned businesses are the backbone of our economy. A study by the Raymond Institute and Massachusetts Mutual showed that 89% of all U.S. businesses are family owned and represent 64% of the Gross National Product. A recent survey by The National Association for the Self-Employed showed 70% of those surveyed felt the slow economy has had a moderate to significant impact on their business. Consequent courses of action included scaling back on inventory, dipping into personal savings, downsizing staff and lowering prices.

The Moustafi’s have found this to be true and offer creativity and flexibility as additional keys to their success. “We used to have 11 employees: 4 waiters, 2 bussers, 2 cooks, a dishwasher, salad maker and bartender. Now Joe, our sons and I do everything. We mop the floors, wash the dishes, bus the tables and cook. We’re not afraid to do whatever has to be done,” states Najia. “We’ve had to be creative during the recession by removing high ticket items from the menu and adding more economical dishes. We’ve lowered prices and offered a variety of specials over the years.”

Although Andiamo averages the same number of customers as previous years, the average ticket amount per customer is less. People are economizing any way they can. In the past year alone, Andiamo’s number of “To Go” boxes has tripled. People are still eating out, but they’re cutting back in frequency and quantity, forcing restaurant owners today to increase their game in order to survive.

“The belief that small businesses fare poorly in economic downturns is a common misconception,” states SmallBusinessNotes.com. “Most solidly run small businesses actually hold their own during downturns.” The noteworthy phrase here is “solidly run”. To qualify, however, personable service, creativity and the flexibility to adjust to the times are a must. As the Moustafi’s have discovered, they are the critical keys to success.

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Scott Barber
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