Anniversaries are a time to reflect on the past. However, Sami Ladeki, owner of Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, is already thinking about the future.
Next month, the restaurant chain celebrates 25 years in business with more than 20 locations throughout California and Southern Nevada, including McCarran and Los Angeles airports.
“I’m not a trained chef; I’m just someone who knows and likes food,” Ladeki said. “Pizza is simple and easy to make, and I didn’t need the expertise of an executive chef when I first opened. Now I have a team of chefs in my company, and I’m satisfied to have lasted 25 years, and I hope to last 25 more years.”
The menu, according to Richard Stephan, general manager of the Henderson-based Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, sets the restaurant apart.
“I stand behind the food. It’s fresh and I’m proud of the product I’m delivering,” he said. “Our menu isn’t just pizza; we have tacos, burgers, pasta and salads. It’s not your typical pizza place.”
Bob Cushman, secretary for Las Vegas-based SCORE, a nationwide nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs, said the key element to a restaurant’s success is the ability to plan.
“You’ve got to take the information you’ve gathered about your customers’ preferences and integrate them into some kind of forward-looking plan for menu changes in order to make sure you’re staying ahead of what your clients are looking for to eat,” he said. “The two most important things are proper menu items and pricing, and these things have changed dramatically over the past 25 years, but it’s a balancing act that any smart restaurateur knows how to do.”
Sammy’s success, Ladeki said, can be attributed to keeping up with trends in the food business as well as what the consumer wants.
“Our menu is always changing,” he said. “When we opened the trend was running so we sold a lot of pasta, then it was protein diets and less carbs. Now it’s organic, sustainable and fresh. We’re always catering to the customer.”
According to Cushman, staying on top of the trends is not difficult in Las Vegas.
“In this town it’s pretty simple to keep tabs on your competitors and find out what they’re serving and how much they’re charging,” he said. “Also go to Los Angeles, because a lot of trends are established there and then come this way.”
Ladeki opened the first location of Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in San Diego in 1985 and expanded into Las Vegas in 1997 with a location at 6500 W. Sahara Ave. However, his history in Las Vegas began earlier than that.
Caesars Palace executives recruited Ladeki in the late 1970s after they saw the impact he had as a food and beverage manager at the Royal Sonesta hotel in New Orleans.
“I was brought in as a food and beverage manager to improve the restaurant’s profitability,” Ladeki said of Caesars Palace. “At the time, Las Vegas was a small town and the Strip was there, but the hotels were much smaller.”
Ladeki said his passion for the industry has gotten him this far.
“When I walk in and see people enjoying my food, I get a high from it; it’s like fulfilling a dream,” he said. “You have to have passion, because it takes you places you never thought you would be.”
Smaller locations are in the works for the future, Ladeki said.
“I’d like to open locations where people can order their food at the counter and then have the staff serve it to them,” he said. “We’ll continue to reinvent ourselves because you have to be innovative in this industry, and if you fail, do it again in a different way.”
Contact reporter Ann Friedman at email@example.com or 702-383-0391. Follow @AnnFriedmanRJ on Twitter.