Marlboro Diner: New Jersey’s Number One Family Styled Diner

Earlier in the year, precisely on July 7, 2021, Marlboro Diner celebrated its 6th year anniversary of being in the hospitality business, and ahead of the 7th anniversary, CEO and founder Kara Petrou looks back on the journey so far and the plan for the future.

The Marlboro Diner was founded on the family tradition and has gone through many changes over time; the diner never lost its identity or core value. Originally built in the 1970s, and known at the time as Youssouf’s Diner, the 21st century-style family location became Marlboro Diner in 2015 when Kara Petrou took over the management of the diner, intending to continue the tradition her parents — who were professionals in the diner business — had set.

Marlboro Diner stands apart in a highly competitive diner market thanks to its operation revolving around the heart. The operations, according to Kara, are designed to leave everyone happy through the creation of unique and custom-made menus and drinks to ensure that patrons get value for their money. Another factor to their success, according to Kara, is her insane work ethic despite being in a male-dominated industry.

“My work ethic and ability to not be afraid of the work, constantly pushing as much as I can to change the stereotype of old school but keeping the classics can be beneficial for anyone reading who is afraid to take that next step in their business. You can’t be afraid of negativity or the chance of failing. You have to constantly work towards your goal,” Kara shared.

Marlboro Diner has a strong grasp of social media and digital marketing as part of an elaborate marketing strategy to attract audiences from every social demographic. And as a family-oriented business, the diner serves people of all ages, with special meal packages available on specific days. Though their establishment is geared more towards families, because that is really why Marlboro Diner came about, young individuals, the elderly, and senior citizens also have their place and meals in the diner.

For Marlboro Diner, the journey has been filled with ups and downs. As Kara recalls, “The first 2/3 years were trial and tribulations for me. A lot of trial and error, menu updating. I played it safe for a while; my specials were simple yet semi-different.” And just when the business began to pick up the pace, COVID hit, and as the world proceeded on a lengthy lockdown, Kara took that moment in her stride and repurposed the entire Marlboro communication and marketing setup. “Prior to lockdown I really engaged in social media, trying to grow followers while working 60 hour work weeks. It was hard, but I kept trying to bring in as many food bloggers that would bite on. Social media was basically our only way of communication with our employees and customers.” So she began, reaching out to customers and to bloggers to help repost and share as much as they could. Kara continuously worked to come up with new innovative ideas to keep customers engaged with them even if it was just for take out and delivery. Then one day, Herbert Christopher Tobias, better known as TobiasEats reached out. “He explains to me what he wants to do with helping local businesses and I immediately was on-board. Tobias, who we now call the OG, shows up to our diner beginning of Outdoor Dining with 4 friends, a drone, and a camera set up. we sat for hours, talking and eating. He took a few drone videos and we created something small. It was one of his first videos on his newest endeavor. I remember going home that day just being full-blown inspired by him. Tobias has an endearing way about him. His humility, his ability to make you feel like you have the BEST business in the world. It is motivating and inspiring to say the least.” Tobias has since then came to the Diner a hand full of times and even brought NFL Players and Bellator fighters with him to continue to boost their social media presence. “ The most memorable video was the drone footage of us introducing INDOOR dining and me getting on the roof of the Diner sitting on the ledge of the building. We still have people talking about that video because they saw it online. The whole process motivated me to reinvent the brand, push it to another level. I started to create a new logo for the Diner, creating merchandise and putting it on our products and supplies.” Tobias’ videography helped motivate Kara in thinking that as a young woman entrepreneur in an industry more geared towards men, She could get on that roof with confidence and conquer any ideas She created and envisioned in her mind to make it reality.

As part of the diner’s commitment to offering the best of its services, Kara is leaving no stone unturned as she continues to team up with leading figures and brands in the hospitality industry as she creates a pathway for Marlboro Diner for the next five years.

Learn more about Marlboro Diner or for directions to the diner, visit their website.

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