Leo’s Coney Island
Issue Spring 11
Leo’s Coney Island is a full-service restaurant offering a complete menu of tasty American and Greek cuisine. It serves a variety of tasty appetizers, salads, soups, burgers and sandwiches, but it is known for its Coney Island hot dog topped with its special chili. There are several restaurant chains that call themselves “Coney Island.” Although they all serve similar fare, Leo’s sets itself apart by offering quick, friendly service, fresh ingredients and regional favorites.
“Leo’s goal is to provide the best quality, best tasting, freshest food and personal service to our customers,” states Leo Stassinopoulos Jr., company spokesman and son of the founder. “We provide great food at good prices. People come back because they know they’ll get a good value.”
Leo Stassinopoulos Sr., founded the company in Southfield, Mich., in 1972. A Greek-born citizen, he immigrated to the United States to pursue the American dream. After working in a restaurant for a few years, he teamed up with his brother, Peter, to open their first restaurant, the Southfield Souvlaki Coney Island.
Fresh, Homemade Food
The brothers started out offering a few homemade family recipes, burgers and fries and their signature Coney Island hot dog. A few prosperous years prompted them to open two more local eateries, which they rebranded into Leo’s Coney Island. With more than 40 locations, Leo’s continues to grow by offering a consistent product and a good value.
The best-selling menu items include the signature Coney Island hot dog, hand-dipped fish and chips, chicken finger pitas, and Leo’s Famous Greek Salad, which features a dressing recipe Leo brought with him from Greece. The light vinegar and oil base dressing is so popular, it is bottled and sold at local specialty markets and online nationwide. “Our bottled dressing is very popular wherever there are Michigan transplants,” Stassinopoulos says.
Leo’s is very choosy about its food suppliers. High-quality, fresh food is extremely important to Leo’s operations. It uses well-known companies like Corfu Foods, Koegel Meats and John Morell Foodservice as its food suppliers.
The menu also reflects their heritage offering an entire selection of Greek specialties including saganaki, mousaka, pastitsio, spinach and cheese pie, chicken kebobs and gyros. Leo’s has updated its recipes as people become more health conscious. “We make our Kebobs with chicken now instead of the traditional lamb, without compromising quality or taste,” Stassinopoulos states.
Feels Like Home
Today’s Leo’s has a diner feel with a younger, quicker atmosphere. “It’s a concept you don’t see outside of Michigan,” Stassinopoulos says. “It’s not fast food, it’s quick food. All of our items are made to order.”
Leo’s menu has something for every taste. Besides several varieties of their Coney Island hot dog, it offer hamburgers, turkey burgers, salmon burgers, fried shrimp, grilled chicken, spaghetti with meat sauce and macaroni and cheese. The sandwich menu includes a wide variety of choices including grilled cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, corned beef, turkey, fried or grilled chicken, and Leo Jr.’s club sandwich.
Family Owned and Operated
Leo’s is truly a family operation to this day. “The whole family is still actively involved,” Stassinopoulos claims. “We consider ourselves a mom and pop, and we think of every store as a community location. We spend time in each restaurant and work to promote an atmosphere where the customer knows they’re talking to an owner.”
Leo’s has made it their mission to provide an exceptional experience. Although its menu has evolved through the years, Leo’s has not strayed from the formula of serving the highest quality, best tasting, made to order products and giving great service to customers.
“Leo’s main goal is to make its customers happy,” Stassinopoulos proudly states. “As long as you’re open and busy providing good service, you’re going to be profitable.”
Leo’s began franchising six years ago. Theirs is an extremely selective process. “We don’t just sell franchises,” Stassinopoulos says. “When we interview a potential franchisee, we look for a strong work ethic. We want people who have the same ideals as we do, someone who’s willing to put in the same effort we do.”
Slow, Consistent Growth
Leo’s is content to grow slowly. For the past few years it has opened two or three stores per year, but that’s enough for them. “We want each location to achieve success,” Stassinopoulos asserts. “If we stretch our resources too thin, the whole operation suffers. We want to be able to have the resources to help each one.”
With one Illinois location doing well, it hopes to expand. “We think Leo’s Coney Island is a concept that can go anywhere,” Stassinopoulos says. “It’s a matter of tweaking each menu locally, while maintaining our core values: to provide a consistent product and a good value to our customers.”