Owner of local Lennyís Sub Shop learns life happens when least expected
By Carole Robinson, Staff Writer
Anand Patel had a plan for his life – and then life happened. Patel learned the importance treating people well, a close-knit family and a caring community.
In 1978, Patel’s father purchased a hotel – his first – in Pulaski, Tenn. Looking to the future, he was soon building Days and Quality Inns along Interstate 65 in Tennessee from Exit 1 near the Alabama border to Exit 117 near the Kentucky border and a family business.
When Anand Patel left for college to study restaurant and hotel business, the plan was to take that growing family business to the next level – full-service hotels with restaurants.
After college, he spent two years interning in full-service hotels in Atlanta. It was there that he met his wife, Mahisha, who was studying physical therapy at Emory University. The pair returned to Tennessee in 2007.
The family’s first full-service hotel was under construction – a 155 room Holiday Inn – when the economy crashed, the banks stopped lending and the plan hit a major road block.
Patel took over operating his father’s 10 hotels, including a Holiday Inn Express in Memphis, which was spending $30,000 annually on catering services with a local Lenny’s Sub Shop.
“That’s when I was first introduced to Lenny’s,” he said. “They do a very good job,”
On a visit to Nashville in early 2012, Patel heard the Lenny’s Sub Shop in Cool Springs was for sale. Already familiar with the restaurant, he jumped at the opportunity and in March he was officially in the restaurant business. Luring away the manager of Steak and Shake, Patel put his business sense to work and with just a few changes, increased revenue 30 percent within a few months.
“It just needed a lot of TLC,” he said. “I didn’t reinvent the wheel.”
Three months later, in June he purchased the Lenny’s on Lumber Drive in Franklin.
“I didn’t have to make any changes,” he said. “I purchased it because of Kay [Horton] and the manager Christie [Lewandowski]. I was their extra hand.”
That was a good thing.
Two days before closing on the Franklin store, his six-month old daughter was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.
“At one of her check ups the doctor discovered her head measurement wasn’t right,” he said. “She didn’t have any symptoms. She was ahead in development of her older sister – she’s one year older. Brentwood Pediatrics caught the difference.”
Three days later little Zaya was undergoing brain surgery.
“Last year is a big blur,” Patel said. “We were already close as a family. In our [Indian] culture we are tight-knit family oriented. I believe in family.”
The response from his employees and the community also taught him there were others in which he could believe.
“The community was very respectful and the employees – they stepped up – even the high school kids,” he said. “They all said, ‘Do whatever it takes.’ The whole six months I didn’t have to worry [about the stores.] Customers would call the store to make sure they didn’t need anything at the store. That’s something normal people don’t do. They were genuinely concerned – many offered to be an ear.”
Today Zaya is a happy, normal, thriving, cancer-free one year old.
In the last seven months, Patel learned, “How to give up responsibilities,” he said. “Before I would take on all the responsibilities or worry. I learned to relinquish and give people the opportunity – the chance to succeed. The people in the stores – I have a different outlook on them.”
While his baby daughter fought her battle with cancer, Patel worked extra hard at being a father to now two-year-old Ariana and maintaining his seven hotels and three Lenny’s stores.
He hired a general manager to manage the hotels and to oversee operations of hotel projects.
“The people around me saw I still worked hard and they tried harder – they picked up the slack,” he said. “I want everyone to succeed. I do what I can to help provide the opportunities”
During that blur of a year, Patel purchased his third Lenny’s store in Green Hills – another struggling store.
“I saw another good opportunity,” he said. “It was a store that just needed some TLC, just like in Cool Springs.
A change in the radio station that was played in the sandwich shop from rap music to country made all the difference in the employees and the customers. Patel said the Green Hills store has already increased revenue 20 percent over last year.
“When I bought the first store, I didn’t think I would have two more and a child with a brain tumor,” he said.
With three restaurants and seven hotels, Patel said creating success is all in the service – like remembering customer’s names and creating a friendly, home-like atmosphere.
“That sets us apart [at Lenny’s],” he said. “A sandwich is a sandwich, but it’s all about the service. People do come because of the convenience, but they mainly come because they want to be there. We create a home atmosphere. It’s like coming to our house; each person is treated with respect. Take care of one person at a time.”
Posted on: 2/19/2013