Avery Ward has been involved with his family-owned restaurant for as long he can remember.
“The story is that was the first place we stopped on the way back from the hospital,” said the chief technology officer of Little Italy in Groveport.
Ward started working at the Main Street restaurant when he was about 14 years old, not much older than when his father, Nick, started working in the business.
It was originally a grocery store started by Ward’s grandparents, Chuck and Janet, in 1966.
After Kroger opened a location nearby, the owners converted the store into a pizza restaurant in 1979. Nick Ward started running the restaurant full-time when he was about 17 years old.
“We’ve been doing good since 1979,” his son said. “It’s coming up on 40 years. It’s really crazy to think about that … it’s a community name.”
The restaurant has stayed relevant over the past decades because of the family’s values when it comes to serving the customer.
Avery said his grandfather believed it was important to learn and know much about the customer to make the restaurant feel like home.
Ward said his waiters and waitresses know their regulars by name and the restaurant has one customer’s Monday order ready to go.
Avery Ward, who studied information technology in college, has brought his own spin to business.
He improved the restaurant’s technology systems including the phones and point-of-sale system from the ground up. He also manages the restaurant’s Facebook page, where specials and advertisements are posted.
Ward also posts personal stories on their Facebook page such as Jeff Wohlfarth’s 20th work anniversary at the restaurant in October, which received a lot of reaction on the social media site.
Ward said its important for small businesses to attract newer generations such as millennials.
“Getting my dad to convert over to technology has been pretty hard,” Avery Ward said. “But I think it’s one of the largest things that has kept us going over the years and bring in some of that new business.”
Other outreach methods include advertisements through Google’s service and at nearby hotels. The restaurant had also branched out into catering.
In addition to technology, Ward also handles employee development and human resources. The restaurant has 23 employees with seven of them working full time.
His father manages the day-to-day preparations. He arrives in the early mornings to prepare the noodles and dough, using locally-sourced ingredients. It’s produce a good product that has developed a following over the past decades, Avery Ward said.
While Ward’s father is contemplating opening another restaurant, the current one is undergoing a light renovation with new light fixtures and booths to modernize the appearance.
Although Avery Ward remembers growing up in the restaurant, he thinks about whether he’ll take over the business or pursue an IT-related career.
“It’s always a balance in my mind,” he said. “But I’ve found that perfect niche of integrating it both into the restaurant, which has been amazing to do.”