His bread and butter Featured

6:46am EDT June 29, 2005

Talking with Covelli Enterprises' owner and operator Sam Covelli is so inspiring, it's tempting to tie on an apron and join his team in the kitchen making sourdough bread bowls and cobblestone pastries.

By the end of 2005, Warren-based Covelli Enterprises will own and operate more than 100 Panera Bread bakery-cafes in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida, with gross sales revenue exceeding $220 million.

"I'm not the boss of this company; I work with the people. I listen to their ideas. We communicate together," Covelli says. "All our directors and department heads meet every week at our office, and then we go into the field and communicate those messages down to all the associates."

In 2004, Covelli Enterprises sent out more than 8,000 W-2s in four states. The corporation expects to create an additional 800 jobs this year, including 65 to 70 managerial positions.

"Good people attract good people. We made sure we had a great base when we started out, and we kept expanding from that base," Covelli says. "We keep building from within. We grow, they grow with the business. The reason we feel we keep good people (is because) we put them in a situation where they'll succeed rather than fail."

It would be easy to get complacent with his company's growth, but Covelli says consumers' tastes are changing, and Panera Bread is planning to introduce new products to remain a dining destination.

"There's no secret to being successful in the restaurant business," he says. "You want to have great food, you want the store to be clean and you want people to be friendly who are serving it to you. Too many people try to reinvent the wheel. That's what customers want. There are no gimmicks."

HOW TO REACH:

Covelli Enterprises, (330) 856-3176 or www.covelli.com