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April 17, 2014

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Despite recession, Sammy’s growing in Las Vegas

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Sam Morris

Head cook Christian Guzman slips a pizza into the oven at the newest Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in Las Vegas, at 9516 W. Flamingo Road near the Las Vegas Beltway.

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Goat cheese pizza at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza.

If you search for a Las Vegas business success during the recession, you might be looking for quite some time. But your quest won’t take long if you follow your nose to the smell of success at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza.

San Diego-based Sammy’s opened its fifth Las Vegas restaurant this year at 9516 W. Flamingo Road near the Las Vegas Beltway.

Owner Sami Ladeki said the recession may have slowed his company’s growth in the valley, but Sammy’s recipe for success works well enough to make opening another outlet a smart decision, even during tough times.

“For us, it is all about the quality of the food and great customer service,” Ladeki said.

Sammy’s has an extensive menu, and Ladeki said it changes frequently to cater to evolving trends. The company’s gourmet pizzas remain a staple, but Sammy’s menus have dozens of dishes ranging from tapas to salads, pastas and entrees.

“Food is like fashion,” Ladeki said. “You shouldn’t sit still or you might find yourself out of style.”

Ladeki spends most of his time in San Diego, but devotes a week or so every month to Las Vegas. He prefers to visit his restaurants unannounced so that he can talk to customers and observe operations, making sure employees are living up to or exceeding the company’s high standards.

Customer service is exceptionally important, Ladeki said, as folks have many dining choices. He said his managers work hard to hire friendly people who will work hard and give customers a reason to come back.

Sammy’s original Las Vegas restaurant opened in 1997 and is still operating at the West Sahara Avenue location. Sammy’s has 12 restaurants in Southern California, and Ladeki also owns a handful of other restaurants in the San Diego area.

The Sahara restaurant is the only Sammy’s with slot machines — in an attached but separate bar — and Ladeki said he is interested in finding another valley location that would allow him to have slots.

“It’s tough to find a spot that is in a good location that will allow a restricted-license slot bar,” said Ladeki, who explained that many landlords in desirable locations already have tenants with slots who enjoy leases that protect them from additional slot competition.

With four locations in the western valley and only one on the east side — on Sunset Road — Ladeki said he would like to find another spot near Green Valley.

He also said he has had feelers from casino operators about opening a Sammy’s in a locals casino, and said he thinks the concept would work.

“When the economy improves I think you’ll see us in a casino,” he predicted.

Jeff Simpson is executive editor of In Business Las Vegas. He can be reached at 259-4083 or at [email protected]

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