On a roll: Tony Luke (center) joins Jim (left) and Brian McCafferty at the Tony Luke’s in Mayfair. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES
Brothers Brian and Jim McCafferty, for 20 years, drove to South Philadelphia for sandwiches at Tony Luke’s.
“Without question, they have the best food,” said Brian, who favored the cheesesteak and chicken cutlet.
Eventually, the McCafferty brothers, both graduates of Father Judge High School, decided to bring the product closer to home.
“Why shouldn’t the people of Northeast Philadelphia have the best food?” Brian asked himself.
Last October, the McCaffertys opened the first Tony Luke’s franchise in the Northeast. It’s located in Mayfair at 6716–18 Frankford Ave., across the street from ShopRite.
Last week, Tony Luke Jr. — CEO of Tony Luke’s Worldwide — appeared at the sandwich shop to see how things were going.
“They’re knocking it out of the park,” he said. “I’m proud of what they’re doing up here. Their eyes are on the ball.”
Tony Luke’s opened in 1992 on Oregon Avenue, just east of Front Street, in an area of South Philadelphia that was basically a place where truckers would park their rigs. Today, people come for sandwiches, and the shop is wildly popular.
The Tony Luke’s on Frankford Avenue is not actually the first one in the Northeast. Back in the late 1990s, a shop opened at 2998 Welsh Road in Holme Circle, but it was company owned, not a franchise. That location is now a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Today, there are 22 Tony Luke’s locations. Other locations include Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, Temple University and Philadelphia International Airport.
Tony Luke’s has gotten shout-outs from some celebrities. Rachael Ray said on her TV show that the Roast Pork Italian is her favorite item at Tony Luke’s. Musician Questlove said Tony Luke’s makes the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia.
Tony Luke gives a lot of credit to his chief operating officer, John Moser, a Father Judge graduate who works countless hours a week.
As for individual franchise shops, he said one key to success is to have an owner/operator.
“They’re a great family who is working hard,” he said of the McCaffertys. “Tony Luke’s created the brand, but the Northeast is theirs. This is the Northeast Tony Luke’s. You should support your own.”
Tony Luke, 54, said anyone can open a food store, but customer service and attention to detail are paramount. He doesn’t want customers to think they are just a dollar bill. That’s why customers at his shops are always asked their names when ordering.
The businessman recalls, when he was a kid, businesses bending over backwards to satisfy customers and get orders right.
The same holds true today, he said, adding that social media is a big part of modern business. The local shop promotes itself on the Tony Luke’s Mayfair page on Facebook.
The local Tony Luke’s has some loyal repeat customers, but the McCaffertys believe that most folks in the Northeast don’t know the shop is open.
They believe that once a customer walks into the shop, he or she will be back, based largely on the product.
Tony Luke, of course, is proud of his product.
“I’m Italian. Everything revolves around the kitchen. To Italians, food is love,” he said.
Tony Luke said that anyone who wants their sandwich made in two minutes should go somewhere else. His shops don’t serve fast food. They are, he said, for people willing to wait for a good sandwich.
“Nothing is pre-made. That steak doesn’t hit the grill until you order it,” he said, promising a juicy steak sandwich cooked at low temperature in seven minutes. ••