Sixty year-old Sam Covelli can often be seen tooling around town in a luxurious Maserati he had shipped in from a classic Italian company. This highly successful, Warren, Ohio entrepreneur is the franchise owner of 250 U. S. Panera stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Florida with another four in Canada. According to company projections, Covelli Enterprises may exceed $500 million in sales. It all began when Covelli, a veteran restaurant franchisee, sold his 60+ McDonald's properties in favor of filling a vacant niche in the fast food market. His vision of a chain offering healthier menu options has given rise to the nation's sixth largest restaurant franchise.
Across five states and north of the border into Toronto, Covelli Enterprises employs 30,000 people in the U.S. and Canada. A typical recent Panera grand opening in Mayfield Heights, Ohio created 55 jobs. In the Cleveland-Akron chain there are currently 47 in the Panera bakery-café Cleveland-Akron chain with Stow and Kent to soon follow.
Searching for an answer to success for Panera and Covelli? It's certainly not a result of "loafing." Covelli credits solid research and marketing and offering healthy, quality food for his success. He also prides himself on treating the customer right and offering a spacious, comfortable and clean restaurant setting. His marketing program allows customers to eat healthy and count calories at the same time. Covelli visits at least one of his restaurants every day to maintain quality control.
The newest property in Mayfield Heights offers delicious Italian pasta meals including Fettuccini and Rotini. Looking for a beverage to top off the meal? Panera offers a 'tazza' (cup) of espresso and a choice of multiple pastry and biscuits.
The Covelli Enterprises management also owns five O'Charleys restaurants in northeast Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania and nine Dairy Queen restaurants.
Covelli Enterprises strongly believes in giving back to the community. They've donated millions of dollars to local food banks and hunger relief agencies. Millions of fresh bakery items have also been donated. Covelli Enterprises has the naming rights to a 7,000-seat center in Youngstown. In 2012, Covelli Enterprises made the largest donation to the Ohio State University Athletic Department in its history. The $10 million gift has assisted in the funding of a multi-sports arena.
Covelli and his wife, Caryn have three children, two of whom have been employed in Panera restaurants. Albert manages stores in the Columbus market, and Danielle has returned to the classroom at The Ohio State University after a summer stint working at Panera. Daughter, Candace sells real estate in Manhattan.