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DELI MAY SPREAD TO BURBANK.

Byline: Andrew Faught Staff Writer

PASADENA - After nearly 50 years of dishing out its signature hot pastrami sandwiches, The Hat is looking to spread its borders.

Owners of the family-run, Pasadena-based chain opened an eighth eatery in May in Brea, and now they are considering building a restaurant in Burbank. They would not disclose annual revenues, but noted that their success - customers consume 13 tons to 15 tons of pastrami per week - makes it a propitious time to discuss expansion.

There is no construction time line, and on one point the former company president, Corky Conzonire, is clear: There are no plans to take The Hat public.

``We really haven't even thought of that,'' said Conzonire, who five years ago gave up day-to-day restaurant operations to his son, Joe. ``We just kind of want to keep it in the family.''

Fast-food industry analyst Doug Christopher of Crowell, Weedon & Co. in Los Angeles said the restaurant's decades of staying power suggest it could undergo expansion without major hurdles.

``They've been through wars, they've been through recessions, changes in the economy, the ups and downs of aerospace,'' Christopher said. ``If they're committed to making business work, they've got an absolute advantage.''

That's not all. Christopher calls pastrami sandwiches a timeless product that a McDonald's or a Burger King doesn't provide.

The Hat may have a competitive edge when it comes to expanding its pastrami niche. Start-up family-run restaurants have a harder time entering the market and winning the confidence of lenders because the fast-food industry is already a crowded field, according to Christopher.

``We're really strong,'' Conzonire said, adding that national fast-food franchises have opened near Hat restaurants without siphoning away revenues. ``It's been a wonderful loyalty. We're really blessed.''

Pastrami sandwiches account for 40 percent of the restaurant's sales.

The Hat operates restaurants in Simi Valley, Pasadena, Glendora, Temple City, Monterey Park and Upland, and the Conzonires are considering opening another one in Orange County as well as the proposed one at Burbank. In 1981, Conzonire and his brother, Joe, bought the original eatery in Alhambra. That restaurant was built in 1951.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 4, 2000
Words:351
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