“I came here when I was 17 years old from Greece and I started from the bottom washing dishes and working in the kitchen in big hotels,” said Gelastopolous, who now owns a rapidly expanding, franchised chain of Broken Yolks numbering two dozen and rising in San Diego, Orange and Imperial counties, as well as locations in Arizona, Florida and Illinois.
“Broken Yolk started in '79 in the Sports Arena, then it moved to Pacific Beach and I bought it when it was small, 3,000 square feet, in 1993,” said Gelastopolous, adding the secret to his ongoing success will always be simple.
“I focus on fresh food and service,” he said. “I only say one thing to my employees when we have staff meetings every 60 days. I tell them, 'We're in the people business. Anybody can give you two eggs. It's how they give them to you. You've got to engage with the customer, embrace with the customer.'”
Gelastopoulous referred to his “guerrilla marketing” concept.
“It's a metaphor I use where, when a gorilla hugs you — you feel nice and warm,” he said. “That's how you make the customer feel.”
According to its website, thebrokenyolkcafe.com, after years of waiting lines out the door on weekends, Broken Yolk really took off in 2009 with a feature on The Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.” That telecast introduced the brand to millions of viewers outside Southern California. Calls came in from would-be investors causing the owners to seek help with a franchise expansion model.
Now the hometown favorite serving breakfast and lunch has grown to 24 locations with about a dozen in San Diego County and the rest now spreading across the United States, including future sites planned in Las Vegas and on San Diego State University campus.
“We started franchising in 2007,” said Gelastopolous, noting he has seven more restaurant locations under development with plans to open in the next several months.
The Gelastopolous family is still very much hands-on with the original restaurant location at 1851 Garnet Ave.
“My family, my wife and I, my two daughters and my son-in-law are still working in the restaurant,” he said. “Sometimes you can come in on certain days and see my grandkids running around. We are truly a family owned business.”
Gelastopolous noted there's one huge advantage to owning a restaurant that does not serve dinner.
“When you work from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., you still have time to go home and see the kids and do stuff,” he said.
Like the Energizer bunny, Gelastapolus and his family-run restaurant operation just keep on going.
“I was looking to slow down and take a break,” he said. “But it looks like that's not going to happen.”
Broken Yolk Cafe
Where: Original at 1851 Garnet Ave.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.