COLUMBUS — Ken Andreasen’s life course was set in motion when he was 16 years old.
“My parents made me get a job, so I went and applied to a bunch of places,” he said. “And it worked out that one of the first places to call me back was Valentino’s.”
Andreasen started as a dishwasher, then quit for a few years while studying finance and economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After graduation, he found himself back at Valentino’s.
“I had my degree and didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do,” he said. “So they offered me an assistant manager position because they knew me.”
Over the next four to five years he climbed the corporate ladder, eventually purchasing the local Valentino's in 1999.
“I had gone as far as I could go,” he said.
Andreasen saw how working for yourself can change your work ethic.
“You work harder when you know the money is going into your pocket,” he said. “You’re working toward something.”
Over the years he’s seen some changes in the restaurant. For one, the menu expanded to include a variety of foods.
“When I came in it was strictly pizza and pasta,” he said.
Also, people don’t have as much time to sit down and enjoy a meal together. He’s noticed fewer people staying for the buffet and more ordering from the menu or take-out.
“A few years ago people would have time to sit,” he said. “(Now) everybody’s so busy. Everybody’s moving 100 miles per hour.”
He’s also seen the industry become more electronic.
“Now everybody has a debit card or credit card,” Andreasen said. “Twenty years ago it was all cash.”
New technology isn't limited to money. In the past five years he’s seen a big push for online ordering.
“If you don’t have it, you’re behind the times,” he said. “Years ago you would have to be in the phone book, you had to get your number out there. Well you don’t have to do that anymore.”
All these changes forced restaurants to adapt.
“Being present online, being able to order online, being able to deliver — you have to wear a lot of hats and be something to everybody,” Andreasen said.
Although the times have changed, Andreasen said people still eat at Valentino’s for a simple reason — the food.
“We do a lot of delivery to schools' concessions stands,” he said. “I tell a lot of schools the pizza sells itself.”
Even so, last week’s $6 jumbo pizza special to celebrate Valentino’s 60th anniversary caught him off guard.
On any given day, the Columbus location sells about 25 jumbo pizzas. Andreasen ordered enough supplies for 150 of the pies, offered in either cheese or hamburger for the July 19 special. It wasn’t nearly enough.
In the afternoon, he sent someone to Lincoln to pick up more ingredients. A few hours later, the restaurant had sold 200 pies, completely depleting the supply.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” said Andreasen. “I didn’t have any clue what kind of response we could get. It was a little overwhelming.”
Because people could pre-order pizzas in Lincoln and Omaha, those locations sold out before they even opened that day.
“I don’t think they had any idea what kind of response they would get,” said Andreasen.
For those who missed the anniversary special, Andreasen said corporate has more deals planned for the fall that will coincide with football season.
And he knows to stock up on supplies.