Covelli Enterprises’ Third Generation: A Family Business Through and Through

In 1959, when the late Al Covelli Sr. founded Covelli Enterprises and opened his first McDonald’s restaurant, he could never have envisioned how the company would grow over the next nearly 60 years. Now the single largest franchisee of Panera Bread with more than 315 locations, Covelli Enterprises has become one of the biggest restaurant franchisees in the nation, employing more than 35,000 people in eight states. The business has changed a lot since the fifties, but one thing has remained the same. It’s a family company through and through.

Al Covelli Sr. raised his son Sam in the business. Al had started with a small open-air market selling produce and eventually made enough money selling potatoes to McDonald’s that he was able to purchase a location of his own. He did so in Warren, Ohio, which remains both the headquarters and home of Covelli Enterprises and the Covelli family. Al rooted in Sam his simple philosophy of success: do what’s right for the customer and the community.

And that humble way of thinking and operating is still at the core of Covelli Enterprises today, now run by Sam Covelli. You will see Sam inside his cafes daily talking to customers and even clearing their plates. His company donates more than $32 million to charities and hunger relief organizations annually.

Sam and his wife Caryn have raised their children in the business the same way Al raised Sam. All three of Sam’s children, Candace, Albert and Danielle, had their first jobs inside Covelli restaurants as hostesses at O’Charley’s or dishwashers or sandwich line workers at Panera. All three are grown now and hold positions within the company ranging from operations to marketing, Albert working in the Central Ohio region and Candace and Danielle working in the South Carolina/Georgia market.

Danielle Covelli, the youngest of the Covelli third generation, said, “I feel honored and humbled to carry on the legacy of a company that not only makes hard work and success a priority, but also giving back to the communities that we serve.  This is something that my father and grandfather always saw as their duty and something that has been ingrained in my brother, sister, and I as we continue in our company roles.”

Sam’s sister, Annette, along with her husband Gavin Ford and son Kevin Ricci also operate Panera cafes in Tampa, Orlando and the East Coast of Florida. Kevin, who serves as Director of Operations for this region, was extremely close with his grandfather Al and continues the same legacy in the markets where he oversees operations.

As the business expands into new markets and evolves to take on new challenges, it’s both comforting and refreshing to know that the simple philosophies that helped make Covelli Enterprises what it is today will always guide the company compass. The Covelli family tradition of excellence through hard work and giving back continues on in the third generation with the same strength and fervor as it started so many years ago and will stay at the foundation of the company for years to come.

9 replies
  1. Mike Raines
    Mike Raines says:

    Thank you so much for this brief history of your company. Sounds like a wonderful company to work for, and with.

  2. David
    David says:

    It is nice to see a company with a moral compass and giving back to the community it is in kudo’s to the Covelli fanily!

  3. Sheri
    Sheri says:

    Glad to learn a little about Covelli Enterprises and the foundation that was laid for generations to come. I love to read about family owned businesses and it is really great when the children continue the legacy. I love Panera and how the company gives back to the community.

  4. Yvonne Marie Pelino
    Yvonne Marie Pelino says:

    What a lovely history of the Covellis and their Panera restaurants. Not only do I eat their a few times a week (in Cleveland, Pittsburgh Tampa, West Palm Beach and other cities while I travel), I have had the pleasure of partnering with them on some events including the Projecting Hope Film Festivals in Pgh. Thank you for your philanthropic heart. God bless you all.

  5. Richard Ellers
    Richard Ellers says:

    When I was a State Reporter for the Plain Dealer, Al Covelli was one of my first interviews for a series I wrote about Fast Food.
    I spent a day with him as he visited his “stores”. He invariably got behind the counter to help serve.
    He was a gent who really enjoyed his work!
    Richard Ellers,

    • Covelli Enterprises
      Covelli Enterprises says:


      Thank you for sharing that story. That was Al. Sam and his children are the same way. They never ask anything of their employees that they wouldn’t do themselves. We’d love to read the original story if you wouldn’t mind sharing!

  6. Rosalie Perfect
    Rosalie Perfect says:

    Reaching out to say Hi! Many years ago I had the honor to stand up for Al and Josephine’s wedding. My dad, Thomas Felicelli, would always tell the story of how he couldn’t believe Al was going off to open a hamburger place. He would marvel at the success your family has experienced! Congratulations!
    My mom was a Covelli and dad a Felicelli.

    • Covelli Enterprises
      Covelli Enterprises says:


      The Covelli family and company has really come a long way since the very first McDonald’s! We will pass along your comments to Sam and his family. Thank you for reaching out with this touching memory.

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