Follow-Up File: A tale of two eateries in Nipomo

Names: Michael Stevens

Job: Owner and operator

Business: Tanner Jack’s and Palo Mesa Pizza

What he said then:

In early 2009, The Tribune reported that Michael and Kelly Stevens had taken over Tanner Jack’s restaurant on the Nipomo Mesa.

He had served as chef since his parents Jack and Lauren Stevens opened it in 2006.

They also turned over ownership of Paso Mesa Pizza — in the same Nipomo Mesa shopping center as Tanner Jack’s — to their son and daughter-in-law in April 2008.

Michael and Kelly Stevens told The Tribune last August that they were “born into” the restaurant business in their native Michigan.

“As young as we are, we’ve got 40 years of experience between us,” he said. “We try to take care of local people.”

What he says now:

Sales at Tanner Jack’s were more or less flat for 2009, Stevens said. The steakhouse saw an increase in the first half with a drop in the latter months.

At Palo Mesa Pizza, however, sales have continued to increase each month.

“The pizzeria definitely holds its own,” he said. “My goal in the next three months is to raise the sales of the pizzeria 30 percent.”

If achieved, Stevens said he intends to open another pizzeria on the Central Coast — something the family has discussed since at least early 2008.

Trying to expand the frequency of sales to loyal customers, the couple recently bought a couple of pressure cookers so the pizzeria can offer chicken as well as pizza, sandwiches and pasta.

“Now we have fried chicken that we can deliver,” he said. “It’s a way to expand my business in the building that I’m in.”

For a second location, Stevens is considering the Five Cities or Avila Beach, where there isn’t as much competition for diners. But he emphasized it’s too early to know where the right spot might be.

At the steakhouse, the family continues to look for ways to attract customers.

“I’m competing with people who’ve been here for 50 or 60 years,” Stevens said. “We’re kind of away from the beaten path. We have to be creative to get people in.”

Within a few months, he’ll roll out revised menus, including a la carte lunch sandwiches for $5.99. They’ve been served with side dishes for $9 to $12.

“It’s definitely an ongoing adventure for breakfast,” said Stevens, who is trying coupons and unusual morning offerings such as corned beef hash.

Since the birth of their daughter last September, Stevens said Michaela Nevaeh (that’s heaven spelled backward) is the first thing regular customers seek when they arrive.

“She’s a part of the restaurant,” he added. “It’s beginning to be more of a challenge now that she’s getting mobile.”

— Raven J. Railey