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Cheesesteak Wars in South Philly

Last week Joe Vento, the owner of a famous South Philly sub shop (cheesesteaks, dude!), won a surprising verdict from the city’s Commission on Human Relations.

Sometime in the past, his Geno’s Steaks sub shop put up a sign in their business that said “This is America, when ordering, speak English.”, noting that the owner says he has never refused service to anyone who couldn’t speak English.

Someone at the city’s Commission on Human Relations received a complaint about the sign, which hung just above a “The management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone” sign, and the case went to a 3 member panel.

Last week, the panel voted 2-1 that the sign didn’t violate the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, so the sign stays.

This blog is not about politics, immigration policy and similar issues. It’s about business.

If you are Pat’s King of Steaks, right across the street, in a neighborhood whose population is increasingly Asian and Latin American, what do you do?

A few things to saute your decision in:

  • You’re the son (or grandson, depending on who we’re talking about) of Italian immigrants.
  • You’re in the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • Your arch rival is across the street.
  • Your family has run this business (and others like it) since 1930.

Complexity is fun, isn’t it?

PS: The last paragraph in a Fortune Small Business story about the cheesesteak rivalry leaves a little hint to Pat’s competitive nature. What a great comment about what he’d do if Geno’s closed.