Rino’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, Italian
cuisine, pizzeria, seafood & catering
WEST WHITELAND – Lance Shortt wouldn’t mind getting results like Junior’s restaurant owner Alan Rosen, who has sold more than one million cheesecakes to QVC viewers over the last 10 years. And he wouldn’t mind a performance like Kim and Scott Holstein of Chicago, Ill., who have sold more than two million pretzels since their first appearance on QVC in 2002. And he really wouldn’t mind a success like Chesapeake Bay Gourmet, which has sold some 22 million crab cakes to QVC’s audience since that food company first aired its product in 1995.
This Friday, Shortt, the owner of Rino’s restaurant in Exton, will get his shot. Shortt is scheduled to make his debut QVC appearance between 2 and 4 p.m. The two-hour segment will be broadcast live from the Navy Pier in Chicago, the eighth stop on QVC’s Decade of Discoveries 10-stop tour.Shortt will have eight minutes to show off and sell his creation, Rino’s Seafood Lasagna. He will be one of 10 aspiring entrepreneurs to present their products during the broadcast. Running throughout July, August and early September, the 2005 Decade of Discoveries Tour will unveil a total of 100 new products at 10 of America’s most popular summer vacation destinations.Shortt said he is “a little bit nervous” pitching his product before the nation’s largest home shopping channel, which boasts an audience of 87 million homes. But not to worry – Shortt has been to QVC vendor school, so he knows the drill. “It’s over-the-fence selling,” he said, describing the soft approach QVC takes to marketing products. “It’s real comfortable. Viewers want to know the (entrepreneurial) story. You sell the story, as well as the product.” Some 4,000 products were submitted to QVC’s Discoveries Tour product searches, held nationwide through the early part of this year. Shortt’s seafood lasagna was selected in late April at the product search held at the company’s Studio Park headquarters in West Goshen.
After the selection, Shortt had to get cooking.To meet QVC requirements, Shortt and his staff at Rino’s baked 2,000 pounds of seafood lasagna, froze it and shipped it to a packaging company that packs each two-and-one-quarter-pound order in dry ice and Styrofoam boxes. “It adds to the expense almost as much as the cost of the product,” Shortt said, sitting with his family at the 327 E. Lancaster Ave. restaurant he has owned since 1986.All of the fuss pays off for the customers, though. When the product arrives at their front door, all they have to do is put it in the freezer or take one out of the box and pop it in the oven. Shortt is using the same packaging company as Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes. QVC is all about consistency, he explained – every order is identical. Each pan of Rino’s Seafood Lasagna consists of layers of shrimp puree seasoned with herbs and spices, a blend of ricotta, mozzarella and Romano cheeses, marinara sauce with chunks of plum tomatoes, onions, fresh garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil. Shortt makes the noodles himself. The layered stuffing includes lump crab meat, sea scallops, and large shrimp. The entire piece is topped with a lobster blush sauce consisting of a puree of shrimp, plum tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. The process takes three hours. The product is not on the menu at Shortt’s restaurant (at the time of this article but is now), but is offered by his catering company. It has been a recipe made only at Christmas time for his family. “Throughout the winter and spring, we saw thousands of products in hopes of finding 100 to feature on this summer’s tour,” said Marilyn Montross, director of vendor relations. “QVC is thrilled with the products selected and proud to help provide exposure for rising entrepreneurs and inventors.” If Shortt is successful with his Discoveries Tour appearance, he hopes to be asked back by QVC. If that should happen, Shortt says he’ll be ready with his Lobster Ravioli with Blush Sauce. Shortt credits much of his success to the support of his family: his wife Sandra, daughter Samantha, an 18-year-old freshman at Immaculata University, and 14-year-old son Jules, a student at Malvern Preparatory. The family lives in Birmingham.Shortt has come a long way since an electrical fire in the spring of 1994 destroyed his restaurant.
A middle-of-the-night call from a friend, the wife of a West Whiteland Fire Company volunteer, alerted him to the blaze. “I jumped into my car,”Shortt recalled. “When I got there, it was engulfed. It was the worst day of my life.” Seeing the building in flames, Shortt ran inside to save what he could. All he came away with were pictures of his children that hung near the cash register. It took him six months to rebuild.
“I never want to feel like that again,” he said.Over the years, Shortt considered franchising as a way of introducing his products to a larger audience, but nixed that. He said he was concerned he would lose control over the quality of the food. The opportunity with QVC is perfect, he says – a great venue and total control of the product. The 47-year-old restaurateur sees the broadcast with QVC as a date with destiny: “My pop said you’re not a doctor, you’re not a lawyer, but if you work hard, good things happen.”