At George’s, three things reign supreme: good food, cheap beer and Baylor athletics. “I still go to George’s and drink my beer,” country singer Pat Green crooned in his popular song “George’s Bar.” The restaurant has gained popularity and, more importantly to the managers, a loyal following in Waco.
November marked the one-year anniversary of the opening of George’s second restaurant, an expansion of the original George’s on Speight Avenue. Patrons at the new restaurant, located on Hewitt Drive, have kept owner Sammy Citrano and manager of the new location, Kyle Citrano, busy, busy, busy.
“It has been great, “said Kyle Citrano, Sammy Citrano’s son. “With this new location, we attract an older crowd with a little more disposable income.”
But more business does not mean George’s is departing from the inexpensive, home-style food and family-like atmosphere that gave the restaurant its large following in Waco.
“We will always deliver the best value that we can,” Kyle Citrano said. “Having this second restaurant just gives us more buying power, so we can continue to keep our prices low. We realize that people come here because they can feed their families for under 20 bucks.”
The Big O, an 18-ounce goblet of beer, is the forerunner of George’s emphasis on value. For only $3, the drink has become a hallmark of the George’s experience, as well as a long-time business generator.
“The Big O is a tradition here and it also helps our average check price go up,” Kyle Citrano said.
Another large source of revenue for the restaurant is the catering business. Paula Owens, catering manager, said that George’s catering accounts for roughly 25 percent of all of the restaurant’s food and alcohol sales.
“We are not the cheapest caterer in town but we are not the most expensive, either,” Owens said. “We try to stay in the middle, price-wise, so that people can feel like they can afford it. The adage, you get what you pay for, is true. I have seen caterers try to cut their prices down to get the business and then they can’t deliver. We don’t want to do that.”
Owens, who has worked at George’s since she was 17, oversees catering of a variety of events, from Baylor athletic banquets to weddings.
Founded in 1930 by Harry Urmeister, George’s was originally named Harry B’s. George Etros bought Harry B’s in 1967 and gave the restaurant its current name. Today, owner Sammy Citrano, a 1998 Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce Business Award winner, owns the restaurant. He began with two partners but in 1995 spent $700,000 to buy them out.
Sammy Citrano credits George’s good food and friendly service for helping George’s stand up against the array of bars and grills in Waco. He said that the freedom to be responsive to customer needs has allowed George’s to be successful.
“We can make a decision right now and change it tomorrow,” he said. “We are not waiting on some corporate office to tell us what to do.”
Kyle Citrano also enjoys the freedom that comes with managing a locally owned restaurant.
“One thing that my dad has done to put us in the position that we are is hire people to do things like our bookwork,” he said. “Those are duties that managers at corporate restaurants have to do, so they spend a lot of time in their offices. We have the availability to go out and talk to our customers. You don’t get that at larger restaurants.”
While the restaurant’s primary focus is always on serving good food, George’s has been taking advantage of expansion opportunities, Sammy Citrano said. The restaurant recently rolled out a 14-passenger, excursion limo that customers can rent for events. The original George’s features a banquet hall across the street that Citrano rents. And the idea of opening another restaurant is always under consideration, Kyle Citrano said.
“What has made our success is being involved in the community,” Sammy Citrano said. “As long as we keep our values in line, we will continue to succeed, whether it is George’s or something else down the line.”