Buffalo Grove restaurant owner wins philanthropy award
Pete Panayiotou, who owns The Continental Restaurant in Buffalo Grove, recently received the Buffalo Grove Area Chamber of Commerce's Business Philanthropy Award. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 12, 2012 8:10AM
BUFFALO GROVE — Pete Panayiotou cares about his customers — and a significant reason he recently earned an award as a philanthropist.
From the front window of the Continental Restaurant, Panayiotou said he worries as he watches his customers leave the parking lot onto Buffalo Grove Road. He explained that he has witnessed dozens of accidents at that exit, just north of Dundee Road, since he opened the restaurant on May 21, 1995. Panayiotou is now urgently lobbying for a traffic signal.
That kind of dedication to the community helped Panayiotou earn a share of the Buffalo Grove Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Philanthropy award at the organization’s year-end banquet. Drew Olbur, owner of Wiener Take All, shared the honor with him.
Panayiotou said it’s that concern for others that got him into food service in the first place.
“If you do it halfway, you’re going to stay halfway,” he explained.
The restaurant, 788 S. Buffalo Grove Road, offers a full menu for breakfast through dinner. Panayiotou takes special pride in his dessert offerings, which include both a soda-fountain bar and an ice cream serving station, where kids can watch their servers scoop and mix their treats.
The popular restaurant grew to 8,000-square-feet a year ago, when Panayiotou opened a 136-seat banquet room next to his 172-seat main room.
His food career began in 1984, when he followed his uncle Chris Stavrou to Chicago from the Greek island of Cyprus. Panayiotou worked at the family restaurant in Crystal Lake, and found in it a business that brought him close to people.
“I like to talk, I like the social life,” Panayiotou said.
According to the Chamber materials that lauded both he and Olbur’s philanthropic efforts, Panayiotou puts his social and business lives together by working with the Buffalo Grove Police Department to serve a holiday meal to needy families. He also hosts occasional fund-raisers for crises like the Haitian earthquake. So common are the Continental’s benefits, Panayiotou has a hard time keeping track of them.
Such as the woman who breezed past Panayiotou on her way out of the Continental on a recent Tuesday night. As she walked to the door, she saw him, lit up and grabbed his hand.
“May I say thank you for that thing you did?” she asked.
Panayiotou smiled and the woman quickly left, not explaining which of the many causes he had championed.