How to Feed Friends and Influence People : The Carnegie Deli – A Giant Sandwich, a Little Deli, a Huge Success by Milton Parker (PDF)
The Carnegie Deli has become a successful commercial enterprise because it has operated on sound business principles. Today, it is an internationally recognized brand known to both New Yorkers and tourists as a must stop.
In 1937, the deli embarked on a 67-year journey to progress from a modest 92-seat restaurant to a national award-winning delicatessen. It has been featured prominently and often on the Food Channel cable network, television shows, and also in domestic and foreign magazines and newspapers. When the media want to wax nostalgic about delicatessen food, the Carnegie Deli always comes to mind.
What business guidelines has the deli employed over these many years? What are the keys to its commercial success? Why did it survive when so many other famous New York City delicatessens (e.g., The Madison Avenue Deli, Wolfs on West 57th Street) faded into obscurity?
At the outset, the Carnegie Deli—a multimillion-dollar operation—has no thick book that contains a Mission Statement or an elaborate, numbers-driven business plan. Current management never speaks of “company culture” or “core competency.” The deli sticks to basic business principles.
It follows 10 straightforward business practices:
1. Keep it simple. The Carnegie Delis product is delicatessen food and only deli food.
2. Do out thing better than anyone else. Customers have a choice where to eat deli in New York City, so the Carnegie consistently succeeds in serving a higher-quality, better-tasting, and larger-portion product than any other competitor.
3. Create a family atmosphere among the staff. Time and time again, the staff, many who have been working at the Carnegie for 15 years or more, use the phrase, “We’re family here.”
4. Promote from within. The deli grooms people to fill the slots when workers retire. The upper, supervisory levels of the staff (cooks, countermen, servers) started out at the lowest rank.
5. Have an open ear to staff and customer comments. At the deli or at the commissary, senior management are constantly asking customers and wholesale clients about quality. In addition, the staff know they can discuss matters with management in an open and free exchange.
6. Make it yourself. The Carnegie commissary cures, pickles, and smokes its own fresh meats and bakes its pastries daily. The deli also purchases only high-quality fresh bread, pickles, and so on, from leading suppliers.
7. Own the premises. The Carnegie owns the building on Seventh Avenue and the 22,000-square-foot commissary in New Jersey.
8. Management is always responsible. There’s no finger-pointing. If something goes wrong or is mishandled, management is at fault.
9. Do not he greedy. The Carnegie Deli could license its name for similar products that could be made by other food companies. But the Carnegie insists that only products made in its own commissary will be sold at retail or wholesale.
10. Have fun working. The staff at the deli and at the commissary enjoys coming to work. They’re happy to be part of the Carnegie Deli family.
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