Build a perfect model and it will work forever… Right?

I’ve been working on a corner store deli conversion project recently and I am a big fan of the deli sandwich so this is personal, as well as professional. I grew up in downtown San Jose, CA where Togo’s was born in the early 70s. As a young girl, I had a deep love affair with the #2- they were huge, delicious, and perfectly well executed every time. A deli sandwich is a staple food for restaurant cooks; how many have you eaten standing over a garbage can just before or after dinner service? My love of a good deli sandwich runs deep and close to the heart.

I was delighted when a new project required that I systematically research deli concepts again, both old and new, yet the reality of this research was a surprise. I was shocked to see and smell that my idea of a deli no longer really exists in a chain. There was that ubiquitous warm plastic wrap smell in almost every deli I visited. I wanted to smell food not plastic wrap. Then there was the delta stretching out between the picture or the menu description and the food on my plate. I found this occurred repeatedly and it made me think about how and why a corporate sterile feeling had replaced my beloved deli sandwich.

It seems to me that a stunning concept built from a legitimate market need is turned into a thriving operation and there is then real success at hand. In short, market need + well defined concept + flawless execution = success!

But things change over time and the big bang of the start-up success quiets down a bit, cost of ingredients goes up, labor and rent go up, sales may plateau, and we start paying closer attention to the business of the business and not just the food. This inevitably happens in every sector of the hospitality industry. It is at this moment when the monthly Profit and Loss statement are taking up as much attention as the food that we need to be careful remain vigilantly committed to the concept and standards.

I am not discounting the integral importance of financial viability, but I am also suggesting that it is at this moment true that the goal and standards are critical to success. We can adjust and tweak the numbers, but only in relation to the bar we originally set, otherwise the quality goes down and the customers will as well. Success comes from creating a concept that meets a market need, a financial model that is viable and relentless pursuit of our core values and food standards.