Gary Malerba / Special to The Detroit News
Venture is new, fresh serving
With restaurants in his blood, leaving a stressful career was a natural step for Farmington Hills man.
Brian J. O'Connor / The Detroit News
Tony Gioutsos cooked up a career in the restaurant business -- and it's a recipe he knows by heart.
The 46-year-old Farmington Hills man grew up living above his parents' restaurant in Madison Heights. And after a successful career engineering automotive air bags, he found himself going home in a sense.
"It's a ton of work, but I grew up in it and I know that," Gioutsos says. "I've got a ton of relatives who own restaurants, because that's what you do when you're Greek or Macedonian."
Gioutsos worked weekends and summers while getting his engineering degree from the University of Michigan. After adding a master's he worked on defense satellites, then moved to the auto industry, where he developed and patented air bag sensors.
Gioutsos formed two companies, selling one, then going on to build another.
"Working on airbag sensors is a lot of pressure, because you don't ever want to feel like you're responsible for killing someone because you didn't fire the air bag (when) you should, or did fire the air bag when you shouldn't," he says. "I had a lot of sleepless nights in those years."
About two years ago, though, the business wasn't doing well, and the investors -- including Gioutsos and his parents -- were concerned. Meanwhile, the pressures of the troubled auto industry added to the dissatisfaction Gioutsos had with work.
"My parents' and my investment is sitting out there, plus I'm getting bored with the auto world, so I thought, 'OK, I'm going to take it over,' " Gioutsos says.
"You've got to put your own stamp on it," Gioutsos says.
That's included completely renovating the banquet facility, changing the menu and pricing, and shuffling some of the staff.
"I rarely get a day off," Gioutsos notes, adding that business at both locations has been slow but building. "It's finally at the point where I don't feel that I have to baby-sit things every minute."
The state of the local economy hasn't made it easy, either, with most eateries reporting their business is off 20 percent to 30 percent, Gioutsos says, adding, "Opening a new restaurant is one difficult thing at this time."
"It's a lot of fun to do something new," he says. "It's very exciting, but it's going to be way more work than you think."
The key to making it through, he says, is patience.
"Make sure you're patient or it's never going to work," he says. "I have some good investors, and they've been patient with me and that's a good thing."
Now that he's made the move, Gioutsos says he's right at home.
"I hadn't been in a restaurant kitchen for a while, and the first day we took over, I walked into the kitchen and I said, 'I recognize this,' " he says. "It feels like it's part of me."
You can reach Brian J. O'Connor at (313) 222-2145 or email@example.com.
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