River Town Hot Spot Growing In Popularity: Salatino’s River House Café

Celebrating their 8th year in business, Salatino’s River House Café (RHC) is becoming a local tradition in Charleroi and the Mon Valley region of Washington County. Whether it’s lunch or dinner time, and someone mentions RHC as an option, everyone knows where it is and that good times are soon to follow.

Lori’s husband Mike used to own a pizza shop. He was very familiar with the Charleroi area as a food business owner. Then a commercial full-restaurant space was made available to purchase. Lori quit her full time job and the two invested in starting The River House Café. Lori had no restaurant experience but has strong organizational and management skills. Lori handles the management of the business and inventory as well as marketing. Mike is also a manager and handles the financing portion of the company. The couple lives in South Hills of Pittsburgh. Mike and Lori saw the opportunity to open RHC as a life-long dream and a way to give back to their community for economic development. “Our restaurants goal is to be the central heart of this town. We strive to provide each of our customers with a whole dining experience by delivering to them excellent food at the highest quality, excellent service by our team members and an atmosphere that is safe, warm and inviting. ” states Lori.

Challenges or Obstacles Faced
Similar to any small business there are always challenges with hiring good employees. Lori relys on good referrals from her existing employees and patrons when they need to hire. Her employees are treated like family but have specific standards and guidelines to adhere to as a representative of RHC. The restaurant has a strong presence with an outstanding reputation which has been built on years of exceptional service and returning loyal customers. There are always unexpected situations that occur to businesses. This year with an increase in local road repair improvements, the construction crew accidentally cut the power lines. For a restaurant keeping food at a specific temperatures became a concern. Luckily, with fast thinking they were able to move certain products into their walk-in cooler to prevent any loss of product during the 24 hour down time. The only thing that was truly effected was the loss of sales over one day.

Assistance by the Center and Other Agencies
The SBDC assisted RHC with applying for two local business plan competitions, SBA Innovate Her and SMAART. RHC is a member of the Mon Valley Chamber of Commerce and works closely with the Charleroi Borough office.

Impact and Results
RHC has compiled consistent profitability growth since its inaugural year in business. Each year RHC averages 10-12% growth in profits. For 2015, RHC saved 40 jobs with the restaurant. RHC is in the process of introducing a new retail line of merchandise products. This past year they started selling their sauces and spreads. With the first order of 300 jars they sold out immediately. For 2016 they will offer the spreads and sauces for take-out and retail sales.

Lori mentors young entrepreneurs and hosts meetings for young professionals to encourage them to stay in the Mon Valley. The RHC donates over $10,000 annually to local charities and fundraisers. The biggest difference RHC has made to their area has been sustaining a viable business and employing over 40 people to maintain the company. RHC has sought the services of the SBDC two times since their inception. The University of Pittsburgh SBDC has assisted the company with a bank loan, applications for busines contests and marketing strategies.