We all know that football and Nick’s Steakhouse are synonymous in the community. A family-run business at its core, it was founded by Nick Petros in 1979 (exactly 42 years ago) and taken over by his son, Mark Petros in 2000. Nick still goes in every day and together he and Mark have worked hard to make this restaurant an iconic mainstay in the community.
Naturally, the only thing they’re equally as passionate about, outside of the restaurant, is football. “We are first and foremost diehard CFL fans, and of course the Calgary Stampeders is our team,” says Mark Petros, adding that football is the fabric of our being — we’re football all the way.
With the Stampeders back in full swing this season, we sat down with Mark and learned the story behind this iconic restaurant and how giving back in their community has kept them alive throughout the pandemic.
How did it all begin?
Mark: “Years ago when I was a little kid, we were driving by and we stopped in for a bite to eat. The food was terrible. The service was terrible. So my dad (Nick) called over for the manager.
When he arrived at our table it turns out my dad knew him. After talking he confessed, ‘we can’t do this, we’re failing, we’re going to go broke and we just want to unload this place.’
So then my dad, you know the wheels started turning, he didn’t have much collateral, but back in the old days if the bank manager believed in you, you could go in there and get almost any kind of money you needed. That wouldn’t happen nowadays, but back then, he was able to, you know, get into this fantastic location here on Crowchild Trail.”
How have you had to pivot during the pandemic?
Mark: “For starters, when the Pandemic hit last March (we closed our doors on March 17), instead of crying the blues and saying ‘poor us’ the first thing I did was get a new online ordering system and it’s been a saving grace.
But the pandemic has been devastating for restaurants as a whole, the whole industry and it’s severely impacted us. We do a fraction of what we used to do, but thank goodness we still have takeout and delivery — with our own drivers. We don’t use any delivery services so that we can give 100% of the delivery charge to the drivers.
Otherwise, you know what, it’s enough that we can still be in operation. Mind you, we had to lay off a ton of staff. I used to have 66 employees, now I have like 14. So now that we’re opening patios, we’ll be hiring some more back, and then if and when we can start having dine-in seating we’ll hopefully get back up to having over 60 employees again.”
What makes your community special – outside the doors of your restaurant?
Mark: “Well, we’re very football-connected.
The last 42 years since we opened we have been feeding the Calgary Stampeders their pre-game meals when they play at home — we’re located right across the street from McMahon stadium. My brother played on the Stampeders for seven years and I played for the University of Calgary. We donate to the university football team and other various sports initiatives. We try to give back as much as we can because I think everybody has that responsibility.”
In your opinion, what defines ‘community?’
Nick: “It’s the people. That’s it, that’s what makes it special. We have been giving for so many years to the community, to the sports teams too, you know, whatever. So when the pandemic hit, all of our regulars have been ordering from us like crazy. We couldn’t have done it without the community. The Calgarians we’ve given to, have sure stepped up and given back to us — that’s what makes it so special.”
This article initially ran on June 2, 2021, and has been edited and condensed for clarity. The context of some details has since changed.
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