Southern Overland Park is a little more Greek these days as Pita Blu joined the landscape earlier this summer. The drive-through, Greek-on-the-go restaurant offers convenience, but its owner, Yiannis Klathis, puts in lots of time preparing his bill of fare.
“We do things right to order,” said Klathis, who’s originally from Athens. “We offer all the things that are traditional. We make all of our dips in house. I have three gyro machines — vertical rotisseries — offering pork, beef, lamb and chicken.”
Pita Blu offers Greek salads, spanakopita and the traditional sweet philo dough dessert baklava. Then there are a few items on the menu that may not be as familiar to the Greek food-loving public.
“We offer a Blu Sundae — it’s real Greek yogurt and has chunks of baklava and hot honey lemon in it,” said Klathis, who owns Pita Blu with his wife, Timmitha Harrington.
“When you go to Greece you see places like this all over.”
Q: What is your background in the food industry?
“I went to culinary school and my whole career was working for big corporate restaurants — Landry’s, Carson’s,” he said. Twenty-two years ago Klathis moved to the United States, eventually ending up in the Kansas City area.
“We moved here for family. My wife’s family is here,” he said.
While he worked for other companies, Klathis toyed with the idea of working for himself.
“It was always in the back of my mind, but there was always a new opportunity,” Klathis said. “But, as I found out, nothing compares to working for yourself.”
Klathis had the idea for Pita Blu, including the name and menu, for a while.
“We were waiting for the major moment,” he said. “I was actively looking. I had to be careful about location.”
While driving around the area he saw the former location for Italian Gardens-To-Go.
“I was not looking for drive-through but this spot is a great location,” Klathis said. “People want something hot and fresh, convenient and quick.”
Klathis signed the papers to lease the location and spent a couple of months renovating the building, outfitting it with the equipment needed.
Growing up in Athens, Klathis has tried to infuse Pita Blu with a real taste of his homeland.
“My recipes are inspired from my mother’s cooking — everything reminds me of home. I grew up with these flavors,” he said. “I think the key is you have to be consistent.”
Q: How do you manage your inventory and purchasing?
“I take inventory every Sunday,” he said. “I know how much I go through each week, so I know what to buy for the next week. In the beginning it was a guessing game. Then you learn what’s busy and what you sell.”
Klathis said his beef and lamp gyros are the most popular items.
“This is what people know,” he said. One of his personal favorites is the Greek Lemonade.
“It’s amazing,” Klathis said. “With 100 percent lemon juice which is infused with fresh mint and black anise so it makes it taste like Ouzo.”
When Pita Blu first opened, Klathis said customers ordered the same items over and over.
“Now people are beginning to explore the menu,” he said.
Q: What marketing have you used to promote Pita Blu?
“I really don’t advertise,” Klathis said. “We decided to take it easy for now. … I rely on the person who comes by to tell their friends.”
Klathis has set up a Facebook page for the restaurant, and he said it gets lots of activity.
“We are going to do some direct mail next month to let more people know we are here.”
Q: What is next for Pita Blu?
Klathis said several ideas are on the table.
“We have already had interest in packaging our lemonade,” he said. “We are actively looking for other potential locations. … The next one will be a sit-down type, fast casual place, hopefully by next spring. We hope that the next place will be bigger so we can do everything in house.”
In the meantime, Klathis is pleased with Pita Blu’s business so far.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “Business is going up every week. People love it.”
And Klathis is exploring additions to the menu.
“We’re tasting a couple of new items that we will probably introduce in September,” he said.
IN A NUTSHELL
COMPANY: Pita Blu
ADDRESS: 7335 W. 119th St., Overland Park, KS