Caryn and Sam Covelli own and operate more than 300 Panera Bread franchises. They’re also fervent supporters of Cleveland Clinic, where countless lives have been touched by the Covellis’ generous commitment to the Taussig Cancer Institute and their cause-marketing campaigns to benefit those with breast cancer or autism.
Giving back is a cornerstone of your company, Covelli Enterprises. Why?
CARYN: We’re blessed to have a wonderful business. You always want to give back to the community, because it’s the right thing to do. To be able to help people is absolutely the best feeling in the world.
SAM: My father felt the same way. Anytime he could help the community, he always wanted to be part of it. It’s something I grew up with, and we’re continuing that tradition.
To what do you attribute your success in the restaurant business?
CARYN: A lot of it comes down to hard work. When we were dating and even after we were married, there were many times when Sam would put in 60 to 70 hours a week, including weekends.
SAM: When I was a kid, they couldn’t keep me away from the restaurant. In those days, they said you had ketchup in your veins.
We never ask anyone to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “You taught me how to mop floors.” No one is a big shot in our business.
Making customers feel welcome is so important. We’ve always felt that we’re in the people business, more so than the restaurant business.
If you start with a great product and you have great people serving it in a clean environment, with no shortcuts, that’s a good start for being successful.
Why is Cleveland Clinic a good fit for your philanthropy?
CARYN: Medicine changes at the speed of light. What was new today is old tomorrow, so you have to stay on top of it. Cleveland Clinic does that.
SAM: We’ve seen how well family and friends were treated there.
Now, being involved with Cleveland Clinic,5 I’m amazed by one thing after another. They’ve really stepped up to the plate during the pandemic, from getting up and running quickly with testing to sending caregivers to hard-hit areas to advising government officials. And the individuals who support Cleveland Clinic are the most generous you’ll ever meet.
We’re so proud to be associated with Cleveland Clinic.
- Covelli Enterprises, the largest Panera Bread franchise in North America, also runs O’Charley’s and Dairy Queen franchises.
- Albert Covelli (1920-2014), formerly the owner/operator of 50 McDonald’s restaurants, became a Panera Bread franchisee in the 1990s.
- Married in 1985, Caryn and Sam have three grown children.
- In high school, Sam worked at his family’s McDonald’s restaurant in Warren, Ohio.
- Sam serves on the Cleveland Clinic Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors Philanthropy Committee, as well as the VeloSano Steering Committee. Caryn and Sam also are members of Cleveland Clinic’s 1921 Society.