PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s really good when a plan comes together. And sometimes, it’s really good when things are thrown together.
Just ask Frank Abdnour, who decided to open a new business, Frank’s Famous Italian Beef, within two or three days of a social media post. The whole thing came about a week ago. Abdnour was sitting at home and thinking about things. People had been asking him to make his version of Italian Beef which he says isn’t like the Chicago-style beef well known in the area. It was a signature item at his old restaurant and he thought why not ask if people wanted it.
“The response was … we had over 400 comments, almost 1,000 hits. The response was overwhelming and they wanted our Italian beef,” he said. “I am getting overwhelmed with orders.”
The former owner of the Spotted Cow is offering up his special recipe of Italian Beef. No bun. No sandwich. No meal combo special. Just a pound or so of beef. And within a day of his official opening and three days after a social media post asking if people even wanted it, he’s got orders for about 80 pounds already.
“That’s nuts,” he said, noting his business has all come by way of his Facebook page.
The model is pretty simple. Send him a Facebook message for however much Italian beef you want and he’ll either deliver it or have it ready for pick up. Prices are $15 a pound and he says that’s about three sandwiches. To get four rolls, four slices of cheese and almost a dozen peppers, plus the beef, it’s $18.
“What is that? Five, six bucks a sandwich? That’s pretty reasonable for an incredibly high end product like we are making,” he said.
So why did Abdnour, who sold the Spotted Cow several years ago, want to get back into the restaurant business? For one, he says, he’s not going to have a brick-and-mortar facility.
“It came at a good time in my life. I have some time on my hands. I love the food business but I don’t want the responsibility of a brick-and-mortar food truck. I did that for 30 years,” he said. “This is a good opportunity for me to dip my toe back into it and fill some voids in my life. This is a great avenue to do that.”
He’s working out of a converted shipping container in the parking lot of Connected, which is next to Walmart on Dries Lane. There’s a stove, a refrigerator and warming facilities inside. It’s akin to a food truck without being mobile. It’s perfect, Abdnour says, for what he needs right now. He landed at Connected as he’s friends with Troy Ummel, the owner, stemming back years when Ummel had a broken espresso machine.
“It’s a great story,” Abdnour said. “I met him when he first came to town 14, 15 years ago. He had a broken espresso machine. I knew how to work on espresso machines. A buddy of mine put it together and we just hit it off.”
Years later, Abdnour is using Ummel’s converted shipping container to kick start his business. The small size and the lack of a menu is good for Abdnour to get started.
“We don’t want to bite off too much right now,” he said. “it’s all to go. You aren’t going to be able to walk up and get a hot sandwich.”
Could that come in the future? Abdnour said he’s just trying to get through this initial wave. He’s stunned and full of gratitude for the response so far.
He’s going slowly, offering just one thing and seeing where it goes.