In an Allentown, Pennsylvania, shopping center, The Gyro Company is surrounded by fast-casual giants, including Five Guys, Panera Bread, and Firehouse Subs. But the little Greek concept isn’t taking the competition lying down.

The 51-seat, 2,100-square-foot Gyro Company features a funky attitude with giant cartoon images of Zeus and Athena painted on its walls, as well as a Mediterranean menu to set it apart. Its menu is led by its signature gyro sandwich and savory baklava. Just months after the restaurant’s opening in November 2010, The Gyro Company also secured a vendor deal with minor league baseball’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

The Gyro Company president Deb Colitas discusses the Greek-themed concept and its entrepreneurial mindset.

How did The Gyro Company come together?

My husband, Chris, is 100 percent Greek and we’re surrounded by Greek culture, including the food. We noticed this emergence of Greek products, like the popularity of Greek yogurt at the supermarkets, and we began to see the possibilities in foodservice.

It wasn’t our lifelong dream to open a restaurant, but we saw a market opening and a chance to build something special and different. We thought if we could find the financing, the price point, and a market for our food in this economy, then it would be a winner.

You sought financing from 22 banks before securing a loan to open the restaurant. How did you navigate that process?

With a lot of persistence, faith, and stamina. The big banks heard “restaurant” and “start up” in the same sentence and ran away. We understood it all came down to the business plan. We wanted a bank that viewed our plan beyond the mere numbers and saw the potential of the concept.

You’ve launched online sales within your first year. What sparked that venture?

We want to diversify beyond the brick and mortar and find the right ways to maximize production and revenues. Online sales are one way to do that, as is catering, another area we’re pursuing.

We got our online store up and running before the holiday. We’re just selling our homemade baklava for now, and we’ve got fun packaging that continues the funky attitude we have in the store. It’s also another case of seeing a market opening we believe we can fill. Outside of Harry & David and some little bakeries, there’s not much in the way of online options for baklava.

What’s your next step?

We’re keeping an eye on the periphery, but we want to be careful in our growth because we believe we can have success on our end. We’re getting interest from people who want to expand with us, theme parks and other ballparks are being receptive to us, and we’re excited to be a part of something bigger and see how we can grow.

By Daniel P. Smith

Fast Casual, Growth, News, The Gyro Company