Featured image: Making and Marketing Sandwiches for 90 Years with Adam Golomb of Primanti Bros.

Making and Marketing Sandwiches for 90 Years with Adam Golomb of Primanti Bros.

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Adam Golomb, is the CEO of Primanti Bros, a famous Sandwich Shop restaurant and bar chain with a 90-year history. In this episode of UNAIDED, Adam discusses the strategic choices, creative marketing techniques, and life-changing moments that have influenced this famous brand, leaving a significant impact on the food industry. 

Drawing from this expertise, Adam explains the insights behind Primanti Bros’ business decisions, including the choice between corporate-owned and franchise models. He opens up about the intriguing world of the billion-dollar gift card marketplace and the Giant Eagle’s innovative approach. Dive into the fascinating realm of digital transformation and explore how Adam’s marketing prowess continues to thrive in his role as CEO.

Listen to the podcast here

Making And Marketing Sandwiches For 90 Years With Adam Golomb Of Primanti Brothers

We welcome Adam Golomb onto the show. Adam, the CEO of the iconic sandwich shop, restaurant, and bar chain, Primanti Bros, is a strategic marketing professional with over twenty years of experience growing and building world-class brands. Let’s get into it. Adam, how’s it going?

It is going well. How are things?

I’m doing well. I’m psyched to have you on the show. You might remember this, but you probably don’t know the context. When Zubin and I started LeagueSide back in 2015, you were the third meeting that we ever had.

Was it when I was at Giant Eagle?

It was when you were at Giant Eagle. We didn’t ultimately work together with you at Giant Eagle, but I knew from that moment that you were an innovator because you took a call with a couple of 23-year-olds, starting a new marketing channel, and trying to create a marketplace in youth sports. I appreciate you taking that call. I’ve been following you ever since then. I appreciate your support since then. I’m not surprised about all of your success. This is the first time we’re seeing each other face-to-face, so it’s finally great to see you.

I always tell my team, “Take every sales call available because you never know what it’s going to be. You never know what idea you’re going to get from it. It might be an early-stage tech that might not make sense.

I love that mindset, but I’m sure you get reached out to a ton.

We found one of our biggest marketing tech partners through a sales call. We didn’t know what they did and jumped on a call with them. As you peel back the end, you’re like, “This is cool tech.”

Which partner is that?

It’s a company called DataDelivers. They take our data and are able to help us find more fans out there and also get more of our fans. We call our customers fans. It’s not a loyalty program. It’s more about digital marketing and a digital advertising solution. 

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Pittsburgh. I left here for a couple of years and got dragged back. They said I was going to be here for six months. Many years later, I’m still here.

You’re a Pittsburgh lifer.

They call it Pittsburgh Yinzers. I am a huge Steelers fan. The draft is happening. This is the excitement. Pirates are on fire. They have the second-best record in baseball. Probably by the time this airs, they won’t have the best record in baseball, but it’s exciting.

What’s your prediction in the draft?

I hope they don’t take Joey Porter Jr. because of the Steelers’ connection. We need an offensive line or an edge rusher. Those are probably the 2, but we have 3 picks in the top 45. It will be interesting to see what they do with that Chase Claypool pick that they got from the Bears, which is 32, to see if they’d trade that or they take somebody. That’s the Miami Dolphins’ pick. The Dolphins lost their pick for tampering, so we got two picks in the first round.

This is a big draft for you all. I’m, unfortunately, a Jets fan.

Are you guys celebrating?

In typical Jets fashion, we’ll find a way to mess up this opportunity.

It’s like the Cleveland Browns. It’s Browns being Browns. It’s a lot to give up for one guy that’s going to play for two years, hopefully.

Also, it is peak. It is a crime with great teams. He only has one ring. What are the odds?

That’s the argument. People think he’s good. The guy didn’t want to be in Green Bay. Let’s start there. I have a lot of Packers friends. They were happy to get rid of him. It will be interesting what they do. Do they take a quarterback if there’s one sitting around? Morgan loves the guy.

You are originally from Pittsburgh. I assume that Primanti Bros was a go-to spot that you went to growing up.

Growing up, there was the original location, which is still there. It’s its 90th year there. We added a new side to that restaurant. We find it funny that the staff calls it the new side. I went there with my father and my grandfather to the original location. It was a long bar. It’s still a long bar and a couple of tables. I had that sandwich. Up until about ’98 and ‘99, there were only 4 or 5 locations in the city.

In ‘98 or ‘99, the original guys opened a location in the suburbs. That was their first foray. They grew it to about thirteen locations, and then in 2013, they took on an outside investor who grew it in the mid-30s. We took on a new investor on January 22, 2023. We’re up to 41 locations. We got four under construction. We’re going to be in that 50. That 50 number in the restaurant industry is a big number.

What’s the timeframe for that 50 number?

Hopefully, 2024. We’ll be pretty close to 45 at the end of 2023. The real estate market all of a sudden got good in the last few months. Coming out of the pandemic, we thought the real estate market would be great and it wasn’t. All of a sudden, it got really good. We’ll open 4 or 5 in 2024, which will get us close to that 50.

That’s great that you’ve been able to have that tactical, thoughtful approach. It’s not growing at all costs. It’s waiting for the right opportunity, too.

They’re all corporate-owned. I’ve worked in franchise environments. There are pluses and minuses, too, both of them. We’re fortunate we have the capital and the systems to be able to grow ourselves and set our own destiny.

When making that decision of, “Should we continue to grow as a corporate-owned entity versus a franchise model?” what are the key factors that drive that decision of which way to go?

The first is systems and people. Do you have a system and people that can grow the brand? The second is success in the capital. Can you grow it yourself financially? Also, returns. A franchiser is going to get a sea of returns of 4% to 6% probably when the day is over on royalties and maybe some more on some other backend things.

If the business can make more by itself, why would you franchise? They don’t want to be in the business. They don’t want to have to put the capital up there. The ones that struggle the most are the hybrids that have twenty corporate stores and then trying to be a franchise group. I get why people have corporate stores. It is so that you can push projects out and try things before you push them out to your franchisees. It’s a weird environment to be in.

We’ve been successful. Lots of people would love to franchise it. I won’t say never because you never say never on that but I’m excited. We have our own team. We’ve grown internally. We’ve got great people. Our longest-tenured employee has been with us for 50 years, but a lot of people over 20 years. It has helped us grow.

I’m excited to continue digging into Primanti. Before we do, I want to go back to your last role at Giant Eagle, running the billion-dollar gift card marketplace. First off, I find the gift card world so interesting. To clarify, what exactly is a Giant Eagle gift card marketplace?

What we had was north of 300 other branded gift cards from people like Home Depot, Primantis, Olive Garden, Lowe’s, Best Buy, and Visa that we sold in stores. We have about 450 Giant Eagle in get-to locations and then we sold them online. We are robust. We grew north of $100 million in a nine-month period in the online marketplace.

Part of it’s the convenience, but we had a program called Fuelperks where you got fuel for every dollar you spent on gift cards. There was value. Contractors would go, “I’m doing a $10,000 job. I’m going to go buy $10,000 in Home Depot gift cards, and then all of a sudden, I’m fueling the whole fleet of my trucks. I’m taking my family to Disney, so I’m going to go buy gift cards and pay for my Disney trip. I don’t have to pay for fuel for three months.” It is unbelievable.

We are one of the largest gift card marketplaces in the US from this small chain in Pennsylvania. When you would talk to many large retailers, we were the number 2 or 3 biggest seller of their gift cards in the US. Outside of themselves and maybe Kroger, we were next in line or we were number two. It is a super powerful program. It has the ability to move gift cards and sales. You would talk to these retailers online. They would say that the markets we were in in the mid-Atlantic performed better than everyone else in the country and the only difference was the gift card program.

Being a marketer, it was to pitch to these companies. It’s to pitch it as a marketing program, not as a gift card program. It is to deploy tactics like how we can get you more sales, how we can help you steal sales from the competition, or how we can drive your important days. We sold Amazon gift cards, so Amazon Prime Day. It is like, “Let’s do a promotion around that to help you push Prime Day.”

How are people finding the marketplace?

The biggest method of marketing was circular. We printed 5 million circulars a week. It is old-school, but we ran a lot of digital advertising in-store. We ran TV, radio, and billboards. When you’re selling north of a billion dollars of gift cards, you have some money to spend on marketing.

Marketing: The biggest method of marketing is being circularly-generated.

Not only were you selling it as a marketing tactic for the companies, but it was a marketing tactic for Giant Eagle.

We got people in stores. We found when somebody came in to buy a gift card, they usually bought something else.

I always envisioned with gift cards, you’re checking out at the grocery store and there’s an opportunity to buy a gift card. There’s no way that they were selling $1 billion in gift cards from checkout.

That’s where you’re playing the straight-up convenience play. Don’t tell Southwest this because this is where it gets into, “Are we driving incremental business?” Before you buy that Southwest Airlines ticket, pause. Go get your gift cards and your Fuelperks, and then go pay for your Southwest Airlines ticket. Hopefully, you’re more loyal to Southwest. In Southwest, roughly the percentage discount would be in the 8% to 10% range on the purchase if you did the math on it. Roughly, somebody would go, “That ticket that was $500 cost me $450 which now makes it cheaper than American Airlines.”

We had great partnerships. I still talk to people in that space, Home Depot being one of the biggest, Amazon, Disney, Lowe’s, Best Buy, the Darden restaurant group, Kohl’s, and Starbucks. These are national brands that we moved a ton of the volume for. There are also a lot of regional brands. We were the first to do this hyper-local. Primantis was one of the first regional cards. Blackhawk Network was the partner behind the scenes.

How do you take a regional brand like Primantis that we weren’t in all of Giant Eagle’s footprint? How do you merchandise cards only in the 450 locations? Maybe it’s 150. You’d have different merchandise sets to help these local brands get exposure. I jokingly say we sell more cards through Giant Eagle than we sell ourselves at Primanti’s.

Going off of your Southwest example, if you see that your flight’s going to cost $273, I assume you can’t buy a $273 gift card.

You can. I have. That’s why online took off so fast. You can go online, order the gift card, and it was in your inbox in three minutes. You can key in the number you want. That’s why online took off. Most of the cards are anywhere between $5 to $500. You tell the cashier what you want to be loaded on it.

What I always wondered about the gift card business is, and let us take Home Depot as an example, the gift cards that they’re selling in-house versus the gift cards that they’re selling through the Giant Eagle marketplace. Is it the same gift card?

It’s the same-looking gift card. I can go gift card geeky here, but there’s a thing called bin numbers. It’s usually a different bin number on the backend so you can track it. Let’s use a large destination in Orlando, Florida with a mouse as a mascot. They would look at the gift card redemption and then look at the spend above that. Their finance people would go, “You’re paying money to be in our network. You’re not only paying us money. You’re paying the third-party intermediary.” They would look at, “That person bought a $5,000 gift card.” Disney has the ability to track you. When they were in the park, they spent another X thousand. There was a profit on that to make up for the profit they gave up on the gift card.

The most advanced people were doing a deep dive. Let’s go through beyond drowning traffic and cashflow. I read Starbucks has $1 billion in change in gift cards sitting in their bank. Do you think they’re borrowing money? Do you think they’ve got a revolver? No. They’re using their gift card balances as their revolver so they’re saving interest.

Their whole rewards program is a gift card. You have to load $25 or $50 before you get them.

That’s number one, and then the breakage. Breakage can range anywhere from 3% to 15%. That’s money that never gets redeemed. You can take that right to the bank account.

Marketing: Gift cards have breakage that can range anywhere from 3% to 15%. That’s money that never gets redeemed, and you can take that right to the bank account.

That’s so smart. I’m a startup nerd. Maybe this does exist and I haven’t seen it, but I always wondered why isn’t there a Chrome extension where you could store all of your gift cards and know how much is in it. I assumed it was because different vendors are the only ones that could see.

We built one at Giant Eagle that we’re patenting. I left a couple of years ago. It’s still patent pending. Welcome to the USPTO. The challenge is integrating back. It’s easy to do the activations integrating back on the balance inquiry. You need almost a real-time refresh on balance inquiries that you’re doing these calls once an hour to say, “Take this number.”

You got all these different gift card providers from homegrown solutions to companies to credit card processors that are running these gift card databases. You need to be able to understand what the current balance is. Blackhawk Network was our partner. They were able to build some of this tech on the backend to do the balance inquiry call. If you download the Giant Eagle app, it keeps track of all the gift cards you buy through Giant Eagle and what the balances are. It’s pretty cool tech.

Grow Primanti Bros nationally and internationally, turn it into a billion-dollar business, and then we’re going to innovate on the gift card. Speaking of it, let’s shift to Primanti Bros. Congratulations. As of January 2023, I believe you’re the CEO.

They let a marketer run the place. I don’t what they were thinking. It’s interesting. There is a trend in the restaurant industry. Of the last 10 CEOs in the restaurant industry, 9 of them have been the CMO. I was previously the CMO. That seems to be the trend.

Why do you think that is?

I think of two things. One, the CMO is the closest to that rev generation. They are responsible for revenue generation. Number two, the world of the digital pandemic took us five years of digital adoption happening in about five months. The CMO led digital transformation in these organizations. The power of digital and the ability to grasp digital and drive the top line. It’s a great trend. As marketers, they are letting us take the keys to the kingdom.

To that end, you are a brilliant marketer. Have you been able to maintain your ability to think about marketing and your new role as CEO?

Our former CEO is one of our board members. I jokingly said that I could run marketing with one hand tied behind my back still. Part of it is my right hand previously. Marketing’s running marketing. We talk regularly. I still stay in tune with a lot of our partners. I spend probably 1/3 of my time still talking to a lot of our marketing partners.

We’ve got two great other people in our marketing team that worked for me, and then we added another person, which is somebody that has worked at one of our outside agencies, to take that. I spend a lot of time thinking about marketing. I spend a lot of time thinking about digital and digital transformation. How does a 90-year-old brand use the digital drive and top-line to make the fan experience better? The trap is to fall back into running marketing, which I don’t want to do, but the ease is to fall back into being in marketing.

I saw Chris Tomasso who’s the CEO of First Watch speak at a conference. He’s a former CMO of First Watch. My friend is the CMO of First Watch, Matt. They asked Chris, “Do you drive the marketing guy crazy?” He said he doesn’t. I’m texting Matt. I’m like, “Chris said he doesn’t drive you crazy,” type of thing. Ryan probably feels the same way. Ryan is our VP of Marketing. There are times he’s probably like, “This guy’s in my business.”

It’s impossible not to be.

The key to all this is building a great team around you. With my promotion, we were able to promote a bunch of people internally, which is great. Our chief restaurant officer was our regional VP that oversees operations and training. Our CFO has been with us for about seven months. Ryan got promoted to VP of Marketing. It’s great to see that we were able to build a great team internally and we didn’t have to go fill a bunch of positions externally.

Tweet: The key to success is building a great team around you.

You mentioned digital transformation. Can you share a little bit about what you have done or what you’re thinking about?

We partner with a lot of great external companies. Let’s start with online ordering. We use Olo. They are the gold standard in the restaurant industry. They run small brands like Chipotle for online ordering and Darden. We’ve integrated a solution called Flybuy, which I refer to as the target of restaurant pickup. The first time I did Target pickup during the pandemic, I was like, “Why did I ever go into a store?”

We have that solution that tells us when you’re leaving your house or your business. When you arrive to pick up your takeout order, we then bring it out to the car. That went up curbside in two days during the pandemic. It was ridiculous. That would’ve been a two-year project. In two days, we spun that thing up and went live with it. We then built a loyalty solution with a company called Paytronix, which is the largest restaurant loyalty provider. We have an app. We have a very robust loyalty solution with lots of campaigns running behind the scenes to drive incremental visits and incremental spend. He is tying all these tools together. That’s the key.

You hit on the next topic I wanted to get into. You joined Primanti about a year before the pandemic started.

It was a year and a half. I remember in March 2020 talking about the pandemic. I was like, “This thing’s not going to be that bad.” I joke with the team. On March 13th, 2020, I told everyone I’d see them in two weeks. The first time I saw my team was nine months later in person.

It was brutal. There are so many challenging parts about COVID and I’d love to hear from you. You hit on it. What were the positive takeaways?

Let’s start with the first thing. Our team rose up unbelievably. It is the best team in the business from an operation standpoint. These guys couldn’t work from home. The biggest thing I talked with the team about is we got rid of a lot of the red tape. We learned we can move fast. We learned we can fail fast. I continue to fight about this thing perfect getting in the way of good.

We were able to make our menu smaller. You never would’ve taken that much of a slash to the menu because you’ve been fearful of what it would’ve done, but it was like, “We can’t execute all these items, so we got to make the menu 2/3 the size it is today.” Our takeout business is almost double what it was pre-pandemic. It has never gone back, which is wild to watch. That’s the other piece. Consumers accepted the takeout business, but we got smarter, better, and faster. The biggest thing is we got faster as an organization. Why does this have to take three months when you know it can happen in three weeks?

Tweet: Be smarter, better, and faster as an organization.

It’s incredible how fast you were able to shift.

I used the story, which is public. David Head, our CEO at the time, and myself were reading the article at 8:00 AM about Chili’s rolling out It’s Just Wings. It’s Just Wings is the name of their virtual brand. They were saying it’s going to be a $150 million brand. At 8:00 AM, we were talking on the phone. By 3:00, we were live with our wing brand on virtuals. It’s like, “Name another time we did that.”

We would come up with ideas. We had a marketing call. Initially, it was twice a day. We had an executive call twice a day. We had a board call once a day. We would talk marketing. We met at 9:30. It was either 9:30 or 10:00 because I wanted the team to get in and start their day. We’d meet at 9:30 every morning and divvy up tasks. We’d get back together at 3:00 and see where we were on things and pivoting. We were running seven-day-a-week promotions. Some of them have stuck. There were some dark days. It was a lot of fun. The joke is I designed our menu on Canva because we needed a paper disposable menu. I designed it on Canva at 2:00 in the morning.

Has the menu returned to the size that it was?

It has returned to a new design. We had a new design that was thoughtful and smart restaurant design that we were ready to launch on March 10th, 2020. We held that. It has never returned to the size it was. It is probably 20% to 25% smaller. We took some items off. It started with single skew, single ingredients, and then complex ingredients to make, so heavy prep. We took any of those items off. There were things that I was like, “This is a great opportunity to get rid of this item.” That’s not good.

I’ve always wondered. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out to eat and at least one person in my group doesn’t ask the waitress or waiter, “What’s the best thing? What should I order?” Do you prepare your team?

We give a free meal to every employee on shift. We encourage them to eat the menu. We train them. We’ve got a couple of big sellers. Our sandwich is weird if you don’t get it, so we try to explain and teach them the history of the sandwich. We jokingly call it our number two bestseller or our bestseller. The Pittsburgher or the Pastrami is a great place to start. We try to give them explanations. We’ve done a lot of analytics under the hood of the sandwich is the gateway drug to every other item. People don’t come in and order pizza off the street. They order the sandwich first, which is expected on their first-time visit. From there, how do you get menu breadth and depth?

What’s your go-to?

I’m a pastrami. That’s probably my go-to on a regular basis. I eat a lot. My wife jokingly tells me how to eat. There was an article that I mentioned I eat 3 to 4 times a week. She’s like, “That’s not going to be good for your health.” I do get my vegetable with the cabbage, but there you go. I like pastrami. I get on these bacon cheese fry kicks or I get on a wing kick. On Bring Your Kids to Work Day, at least in Pennsylvania, we’re going to go visit some restaurants. We’ll be eating. I’ll make them. I’ll force-feed them.

I heard you have three girls.

I have three daughters. My oldest is probably past the Bring Your Kids to Work Day, but for my youngest who’s six years old, this is her first Bring Your Kids to Work Day. At 7:30, we heard banging around the house. She was getting showered and dressed for work. She is super excited. It’s not going to be that much fun dressing, but we’ll have a good day.

It will be. I’m sure they’re enamored by what you do.

We have some new technology that I need to test. I’m like, “We’re going to test some new tech in one of the restaurants. You get to see if it works or doesn’t work.”

One of my favorites of your innovations is the new pizza subscription.

Talk about innovation.

What problem were you trying to solve?

We’re not trying to solve a problem. One, we’re trying to be innovative and give a piece of news that allows us to get out on the market and create buzz about the brand. That’s always the most important thing. We have a small marketing budget, so how do you punch above your weight class with free PR? We’re the masters of crazy free PR, and I can talk about that in a second.

With this pizza subscription, Paytronix who is our loyalty provider, brought this idea to us that you could do a subscription. If you look in the restaurant space, Panera has 500,000 members paying them $11 a month. We did a lot of consumer research because it was like, “What do we offer?” It ended up being that the pizza tested well and we could keep the price point under $10. That was the key.

Once you get across $10, it’s like, “Do I want to pay for this subscription?” Under $10, you can justify it. For $9.99 a month, you get a free slice of pizza every day put into your account. Adoption’s going well. We’re seeing people spend more than that, which is great. We’re seeing a frequency way above our normal frequency.

It’s one slice of pizza.

We’re seeing a lot of beer bot liquor. We have great analytics behind the scenes. We can see when that thing’s redeemed and what else is on the check. We see how frequently people are and see if it’s driving new visits. It was like, “How do you create buzz?” When the day’s over, months from now, we might not have it, but it was like, “How do you try something that creates buzz and gives innovation?” Hopefully, it works, and if it doesn’t work, it’s okay. The team gets dejected when things fail. I’m like, “If we’re not failing, we’re not pushing the envelope far enough.”

What would you say has been your most successful PR initiative?

Beyond the fact, we jokingly said when J.J. Watt was available that if he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers, because we have TJ and Derek, we would change our name to Watt brothers, which a couple of our executives were like, “That’s how far you were going to go?” That got national buzz. ESPN picked it up. Maybe at the end of January or February of 2019, I’m with the company for 45 days. I spent the first two months working in the restaurants. Ryan, at the time who was our Director of Marketing, called me. He was like, “The operation team wants to run a Valentine’s Day special. I don’t think we should do that because the worst place to go is Primantis above McDonald’s.”

We started tossing our ideas. What we came up with is, “Here’s the deal. If you come to our restaurant, get engaged, or propose to your partner in our restaurant on Valentine’s Day, we will host your wedding for you.” We got a buzz on the front end of that because then, we asked the couples to tell us it was happening.

We got buzz on Valentine’s Day because we had hidden cameras in restaurants because we knew it was happening. We told the media, “There’s going to be a proposal at this restaurant at this time,” so they put hidden cameras in and then interviewed the couple. There was that. We had fifteen couples that got engaged. Thirteen made it to the wedding. We hosted a mass wedding and got buzzed that day. It was unbelievable. It galvanized the system and created excitement. It was fun.

That’s incredible. 15 people took advantage of this?

Yeah. I hired a person who I worked with previously to come in vertical of our marketing. I remember saying to her on day two, “I know I didn’t hire you for this, but I need you to pull off a wedding in 45 days. I know you could do it.” We hosted a mass wedding in front of our original location. We had Donnie Iris, who’s a Pittsburgh singer, sing wedding processional songs. We had the mayor there who officiated over the wedding. Jeff Jimerson, who’s the Penguins’ national anthem singer and other things, his band played. It was a Yinzer explosion. It was great.

That’s right. If I think back to one that was unbelievable, it was that. We always are looking for, “How do you jump into a story that’s going on?” We will jump into a story. Whoever gets picked as the number one pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we’ll be all over that. We’ll be inviting that person to come to our original location. We had Mason Cole who’s the Steeler center that was signed in 2022. We invited him down and created a Coleslaw jersey. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and try to have fun.

I know you’re slammed. Your team is slammed. How intentional do you need to be about setting aside time to come up with these creative ideas?

You want to be intentional, but ultimately, these ideas happen over a text stream at 7:00 at night. When the Steelers made the playoffs a few years ago, Chris Boswell was the kicker who kicked the winning point that got us into the playoffs. What we said was, “If your name was Chris or Boswell, you could get a free sandwich the next day.” We got coverage everywhere. As the game was going on, we were texting our internal team, and we’ve got some great external people from PR. We were like, “Do we have an external social media guy that’s phenomenal?”

You’re texting ideas back and forth, so you get to one. We write the PR story fast and loose and get it out the door. There were these old bridge piers in Pittsburgh that were for sale. We did this whole story that we were bidding on them and it was the Piemanti. That idea went from an idea to being a drawing out the door in 1 hour and 15 minutes. It was then picked up by the media 45 minutes later. 

Our real estate guy called and was like, “Did we buy these things and you didn’t tell me?” It’s that. We don’t have a lot of restrictions. I’ve worked in brands where that idea would’ve been killed by sixteen departments. It would’ve been sitting on a desk. I worked for a guy. He used to call it the pile of missed opportunities. It would’ve been sitting in the pile of missed opportunities. The key is knowing your brand.

It would be a flop.

It is knowing your brand, not being restrictive, trusting your team to do the right thing, having parameters that people don’t have to think about, and letting them try things. Making a joke about the Watt brothers, If J.J. joins, we’re going to call it Watt Brothers. That’s not going to put us out of business, so why wouldn’t we do it?

Marketing: Know your brand. Don’t be restrictive, and trust your team to do the right thing.


It is exactly what you spoke to. It’s so evident that you lead with collaboration, trust, innovation, and most importantly, fun. I know that through your customer experience and why you all are having so much success. I can’t wait to see everything that you all accomplish in the next few years.

Thanks. It’s a great brand that has been around for 90 years. Not a lot of brands have been around for 90 years.

This is the last question for you. It’s 90 years. What are some big exciting things coming up soon for Primanti Bros?

We’ve got some big celebrations this summer of 2023 for our 90th anniversary. One of the big things we announced is we’re going to Kennywood, which is a great local amusement park. It is 125 years old. It makes us look young. We’re opening for Primanti inside Kennywood. Both of us are celebrating milestones this 2023. In one of America’s greatest amusement parks, we’ll be bringing a restaurant inside.

We’ve got a lot of internal celebrations. We’ve got something really big coming out this summer of 2023. Stay tuned. It’s going to be fun. The team came up with it. August is the celebration of our birthday. That’s when we think the restaurant was founded. Our longest-tenured employee, Toni, who’s the matriarch and the face of our brand, it is her 50th anniversary. We celebrated that, which was great to see. We think she’s made more sandwiches than anyone in America. I jokingly say that.

It could be possible.

She’s got great stories. She’s met kings, princes, presidents, and celebrities. We had the president in one of our restaurants. When you come to Pittsburgh, you go to Primanti. We are super excited. This is going to be a big year for us.

This was a lot of fun and extremely informative. Thank you so much for coming to the show.

Thanks. It was great to do this.

We will talk soon.

Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the show with our guest Adam Golomb. As a recap, we discussed the intricacies of the gift card marketplace, how to build a collaborative and innovative culture and some incredibly exciting campaigns that Primanti Bros has run in the past. Thank you for tuning in. I’ll see you next time. Play on.


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About Adam Golomb

Adam Golomb is Chief Executive Officer of Primanti Bros. Restaurant and Bar. He was named CEO, of the iconic restaurant chain, in January 2023.  Prior to being named CEO Adam served as Primanti Bros President and Chief Marketing Officer. Adam was born into Primanti fandom. He grew up eating the iconic French-fry topped sandwiches with his dad — an honor he now shares with his three daughters.

With a background in strategic leadership in both the restaurant and grocery industries — Adam is responsible for driving Primanti’s growth strategy.

Prior to joining Primanti Bros Adam was with Giant Eagle, a $10b grocery and convenience retailer, in various marketing and product development roles including mostly recently running their $1 billion gift card marketplace. Prior to joining Giant Eagle, he worked for Eat’n Park Hospitality Group in various marketing and e-commerce roles including being responsible for launching Smileycookie.com.

He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Hospitality Management from Johnson & Wales University and a Master’s Degree from Pennsylvania State University.

Adam was awarded the American Marketing Association retail marketer of the year and most recently was recognized by Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the most influential restaurant executives in the United States. He is a member of the board of directors of Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh and Café Momentum Pittsburgh.

He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Dana, a Psychologist, and their three daughters.

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