Now celebrating 40 years, hear what Tony said about Angelo’s Burgers at 16-years of being in business.
See the original newspaper story, which now hangs at the Oceanside Central location.
A short-order good fortune: Angelo’s menu has been a 16-year success
Tony Regakis has built his Angelo’s Burgers restaurants into an Oceanside success story.
By Thomas J. Morrow, Business Editor, Blade Citizen (now North County Times)
OCEANSIDE – As Tony Regakis describes his arrival in American from his native Greece in 1969, “I came here with no money and no shoes.”
Regakis had been a chef both on cruise ships and in restaurants in Greece. He emigrated to the United States for an opportunity to become more financially successful. After working nearly 10 years in the restaurant business in Los Angeles, Regakis came to Oceanside and opened his first Angelo’s Burgers restaurant at 2035 S Hill St., just north of the Carlsbad city limits.
He chose to live and build his business in Oceanside because the community reminded him of the coastal hometown he left in Greece. Since moving here 16 years ago, Regakis, his wife, Debbie, and their five children definitely consider Oceanside their home.
When Regakis started in business in 1978, his hamburger operation was so small the Coca-Cola Co. wouldn’t install menu boards and a soda-fountain dispenser without a hefty monthly charge – a service Coke and other soft drink companies provide to most high-volume businesses for little or no charge.
Regakis had already decided not to call his restaurant “Tony’s” because there were already two other eateries by the same name in the area. He settled on calling the new business “Angelo’s” by borrowing the name of a cousin in Orange County, who also had a restaurant. But there was another advantage.
“I got my cousin to telephone Coke and tell them I as part of the chain so they would give me a little better service without charging me those high prices,” Regakis recalled.
It worked. Coke gave Regakis the same deal as most other enterprising, high-volume, fast-food operations and he began building his business.
Regakis opened his second restaurant on North Hill Street in 1991, remodeling what is recalled as a somewhat notorious drive-in cafe.
“My philosophy has always been to take over a run-down restaurant that has been losing money and turn it around,” Regakis said. “I remodel and reopen it to my own style of operations.”
He’s done it four times along Hill Street – the latest just last month in what is now his largest eatery: the building at 1050 S. Hill St. [now Coast Highway] that over the years has been a Sizzler, a Greek restaurant and an Italian restaurant. This new eatery, which is both drive-in and walk-in, has an ample parking lot and will seat 200.
“I’ve now got a meeting-room facility available (at his new location) for service and community organizations, which will seat 40 to 50 people,” he said.
In all, Regakis has four restaurants in Oceanside and one in Encinitas. He employs more than 70 people and has served millions of burgers since he turned on his first grill in 1978.
“I’ve lost track of how many hamburgers I’ve made, but I know we’re moving toward serving 1 billion.,” he laughed.
Oceanside’s Hill Street has been a good location for Regakis’s eateries. But recently he saw the advantage of a street-name change that could lure Interstate 5 motorists off the freeway and into the Oceanside business area.
“Tony was chiefly responsible for getting Hill Street changed to Coast Highway,” said San Eisendrath, the downtown Oceanside real estate specialist who first promoted the idea. “He (Regakis) would personally go and talk to any businessperson along the street who had a concern about the name change. Tony has to be given most of credit for getting this task accomplished.”
Hill Street’s name will officially be changed to Coast Highway when the California Department of Transportation changes the signs on I-5.
Regakis says the secret to success in the restaurant business is simple: “Give the customer freshly prepared food and lots of it for their money.”
Interestingly enough, the only complaint he ever gets isn’t what you’d expect.
“‘There’s too much food!’ That’s about the only complaint I’ve ever really had,” Regakis will tell you. “I make everything fresh – burgers, fried onion rings, french fries. Nothing is made ahead.”
A quick perusal of the Angelo’s menu will indicate Regakis knows his market. There is plenty of American-style fast food, sprinkled with a number of Mexican favorites like huevos rancheros, menudo, tacos. Regakis goes slightly Italian on his menu with a “pastramiburger,” and, of course, there is always the popular Greek sandwich, the gyro.
When pressed, he’ll tell you what living and working in American means to him.
“With hard work, you can do anything and be anything you want in this country,” Regakis said. “Nothing is easy and no one will give you anything. You have to work for it, but that’s the beauty of America. You’re free to be as successful as you want if you’re willing to work.”