Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

Shaz Khan of Tono Pizzeria & Cheesesteaks on Navigating Friendship + Business

Interview with the co-owner of Tono Pizzeria and Cheesesteaks to learn about scaling a restaurant business, using Toast restaurant technology, and combining friendship with business.

By
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Takeaways from this episode:

Proactive Development is Advantageous — Shaz Khan started Tono Pizzeria & Cheesesteaks with his best friend, Antonio Gambino. It is often to never mix friends or family with business, but Khan, Gambino, and crew did the necessary work early to help navigate the difficult moments of doing just that.

Brand Traction is a Long Play — In a climate where going viral and instant fame seems to take precedence, Shaz Khan understands that a consistent customer base connects best to an authentic story.

Scale Cannot Be the Only Measure of Success — Shaz Khan and Antonio Gambino have been strategic when it comes to constructing their team. With trust as the foundation, the journey of scaling has become the success story.

***

Shaz Khan knows the old adage of not mixing friends and family with business or money. But when he started a restaurant company he learned how to mix all four.

Shaz Khan was an electrical engineer by trade before taking on the restaurant industry with his best friend.

"The challenges are many, and I think I was underprepared for many of them," Shaz Khan says of going into business with his friend, Antonio Gambino. "So we got very clear on what questions we need to ask and what style of communication we needed to implement in order to convey everything."

The duo began their restaurant journey by opening Andrea Pizza and Frank from Philly separately. Tono Pizzeria & Cheesesteak combines the two cuisines under one roof, and places the focus on the dining experience in a fast-casual environment.

The Minnesota-based restaurant now has four locations across the state, and Khan has used his engineering background to implement effective growth strategies.

"Part of the scaling conversation is logistics and systems," Shaz Khan tells Restaurant Influencers podcast host Shawn P. Walchef of CaliBBQ Media.

One of those systems was to handpick employees to ensure the business scales productively. Deciding to go with friends that possess a specific skill set that could be used to further the brand.

"We knew these two people were not only really good friends of ours, also having great acumen, but also bringing a piece of the puzzle to the team for us to continue to expand and scale." says Khan of the people he chose to begin forming his team.

As strategic as they may have been, Khan and company still faced challenges when growing and adding restaurants. Again, Khan's knowledge of processes due his formal training has made him pliable enough to understand that those processes are not written in stone and may need to be tweaked as business needs change.

That includes switching to Toast products to help the systems put in place become more efficient. Shaz Khan's ability to provide valuable feedback has helped Tono Pizzeria and Cheesesteaks expansion and allowed him to be on the Toast Customer Advisory Board.

As the Tono brand flourishes, it is important to Khan to remain authentic and understand the story that his brand is telling. According to him, that story is what creates the connection that causes the migration of potential customers to ones who prefer one brand over another.

"We make sure that everything about the brand, from the colors to the logo to the food, to the food, to the experience, to the smell, I mean, everything is representative of what that story is and what experience we want people to live with." Khan says.

Long play. Actionable steps based on data derived from putting systems into place and making necessary adjustments when needed.

That is the framework of sustainability that has propelled Shaz Khan and Tono Pizzeria and Cheesesteaks to the level they are today, and the continued ascension that is on the horizon.

***

EPISODE LINKS:

NOMINATE A RESTAURANT INFLUENCER — Do you know someone who is killing it on social media? Let us know by emailing influencers@calibbq.media or sending the @calibbqmedia team a DM on social media.

ABOUT RESTAURANT INFLUENCERS:

Restaurant Influencers is brought to you by Toast, the powerful restaurant point of sale and management system that helps restaurants improve operations, increase sales and create a better guest experience.

Toast — Powering Successful Restaurants. Learn more about Toast.

Popmenu is also a sponsor of the Restaurant Influencers podcast. We wanted to share with our audience this powerful opportunity to help your restaurant reclaim the power of your phone now. Learn more about Popmenu Answering.

Latest

3 Ways Your Brain Reacts to Uncertainty

Here's Ben Angel's three-step plan to control your emotions and achieve your goals.

How a Throwaway Joke Became an Award-Winning Ad Campaign

In our 'Creative Conversations in Advertising' series, Creative Director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners Tristan Graham and Entrepreneur magazine Editor in Chief Jason Feifer discuss the birth of a very funny (and impactful) commercial.

How This Amazing Campaign Succeeded in Changing a Brand's Perception and People's Lives at the Same Time

In our series 'Anatomy of an Ad,' Group Creative Director Tony Jones gives the heartwarming story of how Operation Santa finally took off.

How this Tech Entrepreneur, Biohacker, and Author is Helping Women with Their Periods

The founder and CEO of Flo Living on the future of biohacking and hormonal healthcare.

Duce Raymond of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ on Using Social Media Like a Boss

Interview with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Catering Culinary Director Duce Raymond about his fresh approach to social media content marketing and huge results with short video for the already world-famous brand.

The Key to Effectively Communicating Important Messages Is All About Simplicity

In our 'Creative Conversations in Advertising' series, award-winning Group Creative Director Giancarlo Rodas and Entrepreneur magazine Editor in Chief Jason Feifer discuss distilling complex ideas down to a simple message.

How to Deliver a Serious Message Through Humor

In our series 'Anatomy of an Ad,' Creative Director David Stevanov explains how humor can be a storyteller's most effective tool.

This Successful Shark Tank Entrepreneur Shares His Latest Innovation

The Founder of Ooonimals, Club 44, and the OOO Studio Lab talks about his current projects and what you need to know about the risks and rewards that exist in the NFT space.

Brendan Sweeney of Popmenu on How Ego is the Root of All Evil

Interview with Popmenu CEO Brendan Sweeney about building a positive user experience, the state of restaurant technology, and the importance of providing answers.

Recession-Proof Your Mindset with Neuroscience

With top economists fearing a recession, award-winning author Ben Angel teaches how to recession-proof your mindset with neuroscience to manage stress levels.

How to Find Your "Oxygen Points" to Sustain and Grow Your Business, According to an Investment CEO

Entrepreneur Network Partner Ashley Crouch sits down with the CEO of Al Zarooni Emirates Investments, Dr. Adil Alzarooni.

How to Get Investment Funding for Your Business

Entrepreneur magazine's Editor-in-Chief Jason Feifer and Narya Partner Falon Donohue have a lively and informative conversation about securing the funding you need to launch your dream.

Keith Koo Explains How Angel Investors Prioritize Startup Funding Decisions

Entrepreneur Network Partner Ashley Crouch sits down with the Managing Partner of Guardian Insight Group and Angel Investor, Keith Koo.

Why this Popular Web3 Esports Game Was Designed with a Play-to-Earn Model

The Chief Product Officer of MonkeyLeague discusses his company, why monkeys are all the rage for NFTs and gaming, and his advice for developers.

Discover Entrepreneur Series

Whether you need advice on how to get your business off the ground or you’re just looking for inspiration, our video series have something for everyone. Browse our library below to find a series that speaks to you and your interests.