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Person of Interest

Hometown: Zoar, Ohio

Occupation: Owner of The Veranda restaurant for 30 years in Fort Myers.

The restaurant business: Peden has owned, operated and sold 25 to 30 restaurants of all types over the last 30 years.

Stick to your ribs: Peden also started the Rib City franchise with other partners. His son, Craig, now oversees those operations, which include 13 corporate-owned restaurants and 11 franchises.
How they differ: "Veranda we do with a passion, Rib City we do with more of a business model."
It’s all history: The buildings that house Veranda were originally two homes built in 1902. Peden purchased the buildings in 1978 (they were a restaurant at the time) and transformed them into Veranda.

In the beginning: "We had more of a basic menu—steaks and potatoes. Now it’s much more sophisticated."

Sample menu items: Herb-crusted, honey-grilled salmon fillet and veal piccata, but you can still find Southern grit cakes on the menu.

Setting the mood: "We have waiters in tuxedos at nighttime, and we maintain a classic Southern environment."

How people eat today: "There is a trend toward healthier and smaller portions. People are getting away from the porterhouse mentality."

Best of the best: "We’ve won so many awards that if I stacked them up it would literally be 50 feet tall."

Getting it right: "If you make a mistake, diners may forgive you once, but twice, they’re on to the next spot."

Dining out: "I go to Rib City a lot, and I like Chops. The owner used to work for me."

Taking risks: "The failures become an education."

Lesson learned: "The people you work with are your biggest asset. You can’t do it by yourself."

What’s next: "We could see 60 to 100 Rib City stores in the next five years—and that’s a conservative number."

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