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Niro’s Gyros may make Farragut corporate home

Mike Naser lived a rather nomadic existence for years, but from that existence an idea for a business concept was born.

Naser is the owner of Niro’s Gyros, 11212 Kingston Pike, a restaurant that may become the corporate headquarters for the 14-store chain.

“The decision is about eighty-percent made,” he said. “When we start looking for a house in January, then it’ll be final.”

Naser said Niro’s Gyros represents the perfect combination of a fast-food restaurant and quality ethnic food.

“If you take any Interstate in the country, I don’t care which one, and you get off at an exit, you can almost close your eyes and say which restaurants are going to be there,” he said. “There’s no reason Niro’s Gyros can’t be one of them.”

This is the dream that fuels Naser and now that he is in Tennessee, state residents can expect to see at least five more stores in coming years.

“I just look for the right opportunity,” he said.

Naser seeks quality opportunities with the same zeal he shows when searching for quality food products for his


“One of the biggest problems I have in this area is trying to get the right bread,” he said. “Our Italian beef comes with juice that you can dip your sandwich in or put it on the sandwich. Not all French bread has the same texture, so if you don’t get the right type it can fall apart on you.”

Naser uses fresh bread from a local company rather than offer anything frozen or of a poor quality to customers.

“I’d rather serve fresh bread than have it sit in a freezer for a week,” he said.

The restaurant menu combines a variety of ethnic foods from across the country. You have the standard fast-food staple of burgers and fries on the menu beside a wide variety of other choices.

Naser, who started the chain with 10 stores in the Chicago area, offers a Chicago-style hot dog in addition to Italian beef and sausage sandwiches. The businesses’ main staple is the gyro, sliced beef in a pita topped with a special homemade sauce brewed daily in the restaurant. A Philly steak sandwich and chicken parmesan highlight the eclectic menu.

“My father worked in a factory for a few years, then started in the restaurant business,” Naser said. “I broke with family tradition for a few years when I became a lifeguard down in Daytona Beach.”

He said he worked as a lifeguard from about January to the middle of June each year. The rest of the time he hopped into his Datsun and went wherever the road took him. He sampled a wide variety of cuisine from across the country. It was from this time on the road, he said, the idea for Niro’s Gyros was born. Naser said he opened his first store in Chicago in 1998 and then opened nine more.

While each location of Niro’s Gyros was started by Naser, each location is owned individually by a working partner.

“What I usually do is look for someone who is interested in becoming a working partner in the business,” he said. “A manager of the store wouldn’t have as much desire to take care of issues as much as someone who has an interest in the place.”

Naser said each location is a franchise in that it shares the same name. That’s where the similarity ends.

“I don’t make anyone pay a franchise fee,” he said. “I do require them to buy from my same vendors.”

Naser, in turn, receives a portion of the funds from his


The Farragut store is slightly different in that Naser is the working partner.

“We were over in North Carolina and I have a relative that works for Twin City Nissan in Knoxville,” he said. “He suggested we open a store here and he became my silent partner.”

Naser said he faces several challenges in this business, including hiring and maintaining good help.

“My father had this philosophy,” he said. “If the employees get it through their head the customer is their boss and not you, then you have achieved a level of success.”

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