"An English-only ordering policy has thrust one of Philadelphia's best-known cheesesteak joints into the national immigration debate," the Associated Press is reporting. "Situated in a South Philadelphia immigrant neighborhood, Geno's -- which together with its chief rival, Pat's King of Steaks, forms the epicenter of an area described as 'ground zero for cheesesteaks' -- has posted small signs telling customers, 'This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING `SPEAK ENGLISH."
The wire service goes on to quote Geno's owner Joseph Vento as saying that prospective Spanish-speaking customers "don't know how lucky they are. All we're asking them to do is learn the English language. We're out to help these people, but they've got to help themselves, too.'
According to the report, a representative of the Philly tourism board has already repudiated Geno's English-only policy. Still, some Hispanic customers ordered cheesesteaks at Geno's today, the reporter writes, despite the sign. One, who did not speak English well, was coached by a counterperson to say "cheesesteak."
"Competitors are seizing on the controversy," the AP report continues. "Tony Luke's issued a statement saying it welcomes all customers 'whether or not they speak a `wit' of English.'
"And a manager at Pat's, Kathy Smith, said of Geno's English-only policy: 'That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life. I'd rather listen to the Spanish than the foul language of the college students." (Here's the link to the article.)
What do you think? Is Geno's idea totally offensive, or is it more like a brilliant PR gimmick? And here's the more important question: If you are a habitué of Philly's cheesesteak places, are you a Pat's person, a Geno's person, a Tony Luke's person, or do you have some other (more obscure) loyalty?
Last updated: Jun 8, 2006
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman