Fundamentals for Business Success (and life in general…)!
I have a good friend, John, who owns and operates a great business. Over the years he has shared many interesting business concepts with me, but I especially like how he describes his fundamentals for business success: “Show up, return your calls, and do what you said you would do.”
Jasper’s RISTORANTE, Kansas City, MO
At Jasper’s Ristorante, four generations of the Mirabile (Mee-rah-bee-lay) family have satisfied Kansas City, MO, locals for nearly 70 years! Over that time, the restaurant has grown and expanded from a humble trattoria to a four-diamond ristorante complete with tuxedoed waiters.
As the ristorante grew upscale, the family added a delicatessen with its own entrance called Marco Polo Italian Market. There, regulars buy everything from Italian cheese to crunchy, ready-to-fill cannoli shells and steaming hot sausage, onion, and pepper sandwiches!
Key Idea – Chef-owner Jasper Mirabile says that Covid was a double-edged sword. Closing the dining room for a time was tough. Meanwhile, deli sales went through
the roof and have remained high thanks to the popularity of online ordering. Rather than a “% commission” model, their online orders remain profitable because they are processed through their POS for a flat $1.50 fee.
Key Idea – To help maximize baking consistency, especially across multiple locations, Andy’s team solely offers 18” pizzas sold by the slice or the pie. Sticking to a single size helps standardize bake times across different pie versions and simplifies ingredient portioning as well.
Thankfully, dining room traffic has since surpassed 2019 levels, and the family is again reserving favorite tables for weekly regulars.
Given tight labor and rising
wages, Jasper believes that table-
service restaurants face a tough
choice – either rethink their service model to reduce labor or boost the sales- productivity of servers to offset rising wages. His family has done BOTH.
In their deli, labor demand remains steady despite increasing traffic because a growing share of incoming takeout orders are placed electronically without requiring order-takers or cashiers.
On the ristorante side, Jasper’s servers use highly visible demo carts to boost profitable appetizer and dessert sales.
Key Idea –
Tableside Mozzarella – After watching a Neapolitan ristorante hand-making
fresh mozzarella to order, Jasper designed a “cheese making” cart for his dining room. Now a signature attraction, guests enjoy watching Jasper’s team pull mozzarella from curd while explaining the process
before savoring creamy fresh “insalata Caprese.” Visually intrigued, neighboring tables soon request their own demos. Despite their labor intensity, each $11 insalata requires just 4 ounces of curd, and the restaurant sells 180 weekly.
Key Idea –
Dessert Cart – With the return of indoor dining, Jasper’s dessert cart is more popular (and profitable) than ever. The showcase displays 14 desserts including tiramisu, specialty cakes, fresh strawberries, and so on. Besides visually tempting guests at the end of their meal, Jasper’s employees know that slow-walking the cart by everyone else pre-convinces others to“save room for dessert.” As a result, more than 65% of tables order dessert.
Key Idea –
Since Covid, food education “experiences” have grown increasingly popular. Recently, the restaurant hosted several popular Saturday prix fixe lunches highlighting different staple ingredients. For example, during his “It’s all about Parmigiano” luncheon, Chef Jasper shared the history of Parmigiano Regiano while demonstrating four authentic “alla Parmigiana” dishes!
At age 18, Joe Tuzzio began running his family’s Long Branch, NJ, restaurant, Tuzzio’s Italian Cuisine for 50 straight years. Upon his well-deserved retirement at 68, Joe called La Trattoria to share some of his best business-building ideas with his fellow Independents.
Key Idea – Never wait for business to come to you. When Joe’s dad fell ill and young Joe originally stepped in to run the business, he was impatient to build sales. Joe discovered that offsite catering made profitable use of the kitchen outside of busy dinner hours by allowing most pre-prep to happen early in the day.
Key Idea – Think outside the daypart. Joe learned that pharmaceutical reps sometimes provide breakfast to medical offices while doctors listen to their sales presentations. So Joe began working closely with local reps to create flavorful breakfasts while DEPENDABLY meeting their precise deadlines for each delivery. As doctor offices began requesting Joe’s breakfasts, his lunchtime office orders also began to grow.
Key Idea – Remove operational bottlenecks. For holiday catering, Joe would pre-cook over 100 Thanksgiving turkeys, 32 at a time (16 per deck over two pizza ovens). To presell and
distribute 600 family dinners on Christmas Eve, Joe regularly rented a 55’ refrigerator trailer for the parking lot. Then he and his team sequentially prepared and pre-loaded the various meal components for days in advance.
Key Idea – Earn customers one at a time. For his restaurant regulars, Joe worked to further earn their loyalty by learning and accommodating their dietary preferences. Early on, Joe began offering a good quality gluten free pasta, crafted low fat meals for those wanting them, and worked to perfect a meatless Bolognese from ground veggie burger.
Key Idea – Create profitable seasonal specials. When seasonal eggplant became plentiful (and exceptionally reasonable), Joe would fry up large batches of eggplant cutlets. He then skewered them vertically with layers of roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil to create visually stunning “eggplant tower” appetizers.
Davide Lubrano and Vinny Gallagher, Co-Owners
Facing tight kitchen labor, Chef David Sammarco still insists on cooking his premium seafoods and meats to order.
Key Idea – But David “front loads” as much advance preparation as possible. He pre-portions individual servings of raw proteins, like his medley of fresh shrimp, scallops, and calamari together, in ziplock bags. He also parcooks and pre-portions pasta servings. Then by keeping these “speed scratch” components within easy reach during dinner, David can rapidly marry each dish’s pre-portioned protein and
sauce in a hot skillet and then toss-in pasta to warm it to perfect “al dente” firmness.
David Sammarco, Chef
The Heights Pub
One secret to the popularity of Giuseppe Sparacio’s handcrafted hoagies and cheesesteaks are his house-baked rolls. The freshly baked rolls further elevate his premium cured meats and cheeses.
Key Idea – While he uses the same dough recipe for his pizza, he carefully manages roll “rise time” to promote flavor development without allowing finished bread “bubbles” from becoming too large!
Giuseppe Sparacio, Owner
Joe’s Original Pizza
La Vera Cucina:
Kay’s Linguine, Shrimp, and Greens
At Linguine’s Italian Restaurant, Vinny Desiderio has long satisfied Buffalo, NY, locals with highly flavorful Italian specialties. A personal favorite is his mother Kay’s Linguine, Shrimp, and Greens which contrasts fresh scampi with the tang of freshly chopped escarole. Vinny loves preparing this dish because its aroma reminds him of watching his mother Kay prepare his favorite after school snack!
1⁄2 pound linguine (dry)
4 tablespoons EVOO
3 cloves minced garlic
1⁄2 head of escarole, cleaned, chopped, and patted dry (1” square pieces) 6 large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt & pepper to taste
8 imported olives, pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons Italian parsley minced
1⁄4 cup grated Romano cheese + plus more for serving
Red pepper flakes to taste
- Pound out chicken between plastic wrap until you have thin cutlets; lightly salt and pepper cutlets.
- Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
- Whisk eggs, heavy cream, Parmigiano Reggiano, and parsley in a bowl until smooth.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.
- Dredge chicken in flour and then egg wash.
- Place two chicken cutlets into the pan at a time to avoid crowding.
- Cook approximately 4-6 minutes per side until golden brown.
- Remove chicken from pan and place on paper towel; cover to keep warm. Wipe out pan with paper towel.
Instructions for Chicken
Add dry linguine into pot of boiling, salted water. Cook for roughly 8-9 minutes until pasta reaches the al dente stage. Once linguine is cooked, drain pasta while reserving one cup of hot pasta water.
While the pasta cooks, heat the saucepan over medium flame; add olive oil. Add minced garlic and escarole. Add shrimp, stirring occasionally. Cook shrimp 3-4 minutes until it changes color and begins to firm. Remove the pan from heat. Add linguine, olives, and parsley and toss with shrimp. Add a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water if needed to prevent the mixture from becoming dry. Add Romano cheese and stir through. Plate, garnish with red pepper flakes and a bit more Romano – enjoy immediately. Makes two generous servings.