THE LINCOLN SQUARE STORY
From humble beginnings growing up in a village of 50-60 in Greece, to today being the founder of Lincoln Square Restaurants in Central Indiana, George Katris says dreaming big and having faith are the secrets to his success. George and his family own and operate ten Lincoln Square locations. “I always dreamed of being the best and I credit my mother with instilling that in me,” says George. In 2016, the company is slated to open another restaurant in Inrvington.
George and son, Chris Katris, President of Lincoln Square Restaurants, strive to make everyone feel at home, “…whether it’s their first or their hundredth time visiting the restaurant. This is our philosophy compared to franchises,” says George.
The Early Years
George left his tiny Greek village at age 13 and ultimately found work in Athens. At 18, he borrowed money from family and boarded a boat to Canada. His sister and brother offered him lodging in Toronto and George worked as a dishwasher for $18 a week, all the while believing something good would happen. Learning English enabled him to get progressively better factory jobs so that he could reimburse his dad for the trip.
The food business piqued George’s interest when he landed a job in a high-class hotel in Toronto busing tables. Working hard and saving his money enabled George to return to Greece in 1976, where he met his wife. He brought her back to Toronto, where she expected to live in a big apartment; he had to prepare her for a very small one, saying, “This is our starting point in life.” Shortly after the birth of their son, Chris, their next goal was to move to the United States. The family settled in Waukegan, Illinois, and George worked for a Chicago restaurant for 10 years, all the while dreaming about something better.
The First Lincoln Square Restaurant
In 1985, George aspired to own his own restaurant. Four years later, he recalls telling the family, “Guys, we’re moving.” That’s when the family asked, “Where’s Kokomo, Indiana?”
Naming his first restaurant Lincoln Square was easy, because it sat on the corner of Lincoln Road in Kokomo. After signing a 10-year lease, George put in long hours, working from 7 a.m. to 3:30 the next morning, only seeing his children on weekends. He never regretted it, because he was able to send Chris to Purdue University, where Chris graduated with an engineering degree. Once the restaurant lease expired, George set his sites on Indianapolis. He opened his first Lincoln Square location at 21st Street and Shadeland Avenue and has since added seven locations, including Columbus, Greenfield, and Westfield.
The Katris Philosophy
George has never forgotten the helping hand he received when starting out in life and he pays it forward every day. Becoming an American citizen and receiving his Social Security card were milestones. He has likewise been known to help his employees attain U.S. citizenship and empower them in other ways. One of many success stories is Richard Deirth, who began working at the 21st Street and Shadeland Avenue location as a host and server nearly 10 years ago. Today, Richard is a partner and manages his own Lincoln Square Restaurant in Westfield. “When I interviewed with George, I was told there is opportunity. George makes dreams come true,” says Richard. Opportunities abound for every employee at Lincoln Square Restaurants. Plus, both George and Chris take great pride in providing Indiana jobs for their 180 employees.
Chris Joins Lincoln Square
After graduating from Purdue and working in progressively more responsible engineering positions, Chris surprised his dad in 2002 by wanting to partner with him to run Lincoln Square Restaurants. According to George, Chris has since learned the business from the ground up and has computerized processes, improved the menu, and introduced catering as ways to bridge tried-and-true ways of running the business with more modern methods. Chris’s focus mirrors his dad’s, “Take care of our community and support our people.” He adds, “We are an Indiana family taking care of Indiana workers and customers.” As president of Lincoln Square, Chris’s goals for 2013 include expanding the catering business and creating 30 more Indiana jobs, recognizing “Our biggest asset is our people.”
One unique feature of all Lincoln Square locations is that they attract local residents. According to Chris, “It’s a neighborhood place. We cater to the neighborhood surrounding each location.”
Lincoln Square Today
“If you have faith and believe in yourself, you will be the best.” This philosophy has served George Katris, his family, his employees, and his customers since 1989. Now, George’s dream is to keep going. “Every time we open a new location, we help someone. Our employees become managers and partners,” says George. He has now passed the responsibility of making dreams come true on to Chris. It’s a family tradition and a sure-fire method of success for Lincoln Square Restaurants.