From 1989 through 2002, Romano served as a joint venture partner of Brinker International as national operator, developer and franchisor of numerous restaurant concepts. Romano is the only person in the restaurant industry that has created more than two national concepts – creating six to date: Fuddruckers, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Spageddies, Cozymel’s, Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ and eatZi’s Market & Bakery. Fuddruckers has opened units in more than 150 locations worldwide, with Romano’s Macaroni Grill operating in more than 190 locations in the United States and Canada. The restaurant concepts created by Romano produce over $1.5 billion in sales each year. To date, his concepts have generated more than $20 billion in revenue.
He previously was a principal in EGP, a partnership that held the licensing rights to the Palmaz-Schatz Stent, one of the most successful medical devices of its time and considered one of the patents that has changed the world. Romano currently has three medical funds; SHDI, SHD2 and SHD3 of which he is a General Partner. These funds invest in start-up medical technology.
Compass Group, the world’s largest contract food service organization, has established an exclusive partnership with Romano, who will increase the company’s new business opportunities throughout the United States, particularly in the Southwest where the Compass Group is establishing a large presence.
Romano and his family established a charitable foundation, The Food Foundation, which operates as Hunger Busters and has been in operation for 20 years. This 501(c) (3) organization provides food to the hungry and serves over 415,000 meals per year to schoolchildren in Dallas.
Romano served on the Board of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University for 20 years. He lectures frequently at universities, national business seminars, civic organizations and special interest group meetings.
Romano wrote his first book entitled Food for Thought in 2005 that made the CEO Best Sellers List. His latest book, The MAD Entrepreneur, was released in March 2019 and shares his secrets to success and insights into how he’s making a difference (MAD) in business and in life.
eatZi’s Market & Bakery.
A European-style eatery, where every day is another chance to create great food for great people. At eatZi’s, customers can find old favorites and new food they’ve never tried before with the help of a team committed to service. The atmosphere is intimate but casual, making it easy to select and savor exactly what you’re craving. Currently there are six stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse.
Founded in 1999, Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse remains one of Dallas’ most popular and attractive dining destinations featuring prime steaks, chops, and world class seafood. This restaurant is the culmination of Romano’s extensive experience in conceptualizing and designing highly successful and original restaurants.
Nick & Sam’s Grill.
A spin-off of Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse featuring traditional American comfort food, Nick and Sam’s Grill delivers an energetic, comfortable bistro ambiance with sleek design and staff trained to deliver personal service offering a Dallas neighborhood “Cheers-like” atmosphere.
Coal Vines Pizza.
Founded in 2006, Coal Vines is a place where customers are destined to enjoy New York style pizza, pasta and wine in a casual environment.
Romano’s latest venture with partners Stuart Fitts and Butch McGregor is Trinity Groves, with approximately 90 acres at the foot of the Calatrava Bridge in Dallas. The first 15 acres established the country’s first restaurant concept incubator which encourages entrepreneurs to start businesses and create jobs and tax revenue for the city of Dallas.
The Network Bar at Trinity Groves.
A members-only concept developed by Stuart Fitts and Phil Romano that takes networking and social interaction to another level. This concept lies at the intersection of business and pleasure. It combines food, craft cocktails, meeting rooms, and business education in the ideal environment for professionals to socialize and build their network. A mobile app is added to the mix that revolutionizes collaboration and communication.
Phil Romano is a first-generation Italian American from upstate New York. His business sense started at a young age on his paper route in Auburn, New York when people paid him extra money to put their paper between the front and storm doors in the cold winters. He attended school at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. While there, he got into martial arts to keep in shape while in the Army Reserves. He set up two karate schools that were making $20,000 per year. He heard that the father of a student at the school needed a partner for his restaurant business. Romano sold his karate schools, and went into business with him at age 24, opening his first restaurant in North Palm Beach.
Romano credits not his successful restaurants, but his investment in the heart stent, that saved his own life and the countless lives of others as one of his greatest legacies. He also counts as his greatest achievement in life is his son Sam.
Romano currently lives in Dallas, Texas with his two French Bulldogs, Frank and Bean, and his Sphynx cat Samurai.
Awards and Honors
Nation’s Restaurant News awarded Romano the “1995 Innovator of the Year” award.
Cozymel’s won the “1995 Hot Concept of the Year” award from Nation’s Restaurant News.
eatZi’s won the “1996 Hot Concept of the Year” award from Nation’s Restaurant News.
Foodservice Consultants Society International Trend Setter Award in 1996.
In 1997, Romano was named by Advertising Age as “one of the top 100 innovative and inspiring marketers who have most successfully established or repositioned a brand.”
Sullivan College, a national center for hospitality studies, honored Romano with the 1998 Great American Restaurateur Award.
In 2000, Nation’s Restaurant News named Romano as “one of the top 20 restauranteurs.”
Romano received the Civic/Community Service Tastemaker Award for his work with Hunger Busters in 2001 from the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association.
Industry Leader of the Year Tastemaker Award by the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association in 2002.
In 2003, the University of North Texas awarded Romano the North Texas Humanitarian Award, which recognizes community leaders who embody a public spirit to better the community and whose selfless acts inspire students.
Romano was honored by the Italian Heritage Society in 2003 with the Christopher Columbus Outstanding Italian American Achievement Award which is a “tribute to distinguished individuals.”
In 2004, the American Immigration Law Foundation awarded Romano The American Heritage Award for his outstanding contributions to America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants.
In April 2006, Romano was inducted into the Dallas Business Hall of Fame. Only 24 individuals had previously been inducted.
In 2009, Romano was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame.
Romano was awarded with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities by Parker College in 2010.
In March 2012, Romano received the AJC Dallas Human Relations Award which is presented to leading members of the community who have made a significant contribution to the betterment of life on local and national levels.
In 2014, Romano was recognized as an Ernst & Young Serial Entrepreneur of the Year.
In October 2015, Romano received the 2015 Industry Leadership Award at the Leadership Roundtable Conference.
On December 15, 2015, Philip Romano was recognized for his achievements on the Congressional Record by the Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas.
Romano was named by D CEO as one of the “500 Most Powerful Business Leaders” in 2016, 2017 and 2018.