How this Restaurant Owner Exploded His Profits Ep 66

restaurant coaching program restaurant owner success story restaurant podcast
How this Restaurant Owner Exploded His Profits

Every couple of months I like to invite a restaurant owner who has benefited from my restaurant coaching program onto podcast. It’s a great chance for the restaurant owner to reflect on all the work they’ve done and the results of their work. It’s also a chance for me to take a minute to remind myself in the hustle and bustle of every day that what I teach works. That reinforces my motivation and my why for doing the work I do every day. Today’s guest is Jon Dempster. Jon opened his first restaurant, The Shanty, in the rural seaside community of Cape Charles, Virginia. He also has a second restaurant called Dead Rise Italian Kitchen. Prior to opening the restaurant, he spent 15 years traveling the country working his way up in the hospitality business from the dish pit in coastal New England towns to general manager of an independent Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. He also made an awesome noodle stop in Seattle along the way.

In this episode of my podcast, The Restaurant Prosperity Formula, Jon shares his passion for the industry and how he maintains his drive to continue learning and growing daily. Jon has a special focus on creating the best culture for his restaurant team and community. Listen to our conversation to hear Jon tell how he went from a restaurant owner already using systems to someone who now understands the why of those systems and how using the why helped him explode his profitability.


Jon and his partner, Mike, opened their first restaurant 10 years ago. It's a full-service waterfront seafood dining restaurant. They about $3 million a year in annual revenue with about a 120 seats and a staff in season of 75 to 80 and out of season about half of that. Six years ago they opened a small Italian pizzeria in the same town that does a little bit less than half of the revenues, and it's more consistent year round.

Jon and Mike operated the restaurants together, one being more like the right side of the brain and the other the left. They brought a balance of strengths to their shared ownership. Mike and Jon had relocated to open the restaurants and a while back Mike decided he wanted to move back closer to his family. Jon knew he needed to start working on filling in the gaps that Mike was going to leave behind. That’s how he found my Restaurant Transformation Intensive, a premium coaching group for independent restaurant owners of single-unit or multi-unit operations.

“I'm always kind of chasing a shiny object and thinking, oh, maybe we can put this on the menu, or maybe we should think about this operational procedure, but Mike really enjoyed and really excels at being in the data and making sure the data is being analyzed properly,” said Jon. “Those are things that I kind of like to skim. They’re not the most fun part of the business for me.”

With Mike leaving, it was the right timing for them to join my restaurant coaching program. While they did have systems, and were successful with them, they got better understanding of them and to focus on being proactive whereas before the program, they tended to be reactive.

“When we had a budget in the past, our budget was based off historical data. So it was, you know, we have a budget for 2023 coming up, but we would do that budget in November, December, begin working on it, put it together for the year. And it would be based on last year’s costs, let’s we ran at 37, 38, 39%,” Jon said. “We would ask each other if we thought it was realistic to get it down two points by potentially changing this or that in the kitchen or maybe changing a menu item. But there was no real strategy for why the food costs were 39% or why the labor cost was 36% until we began with you.”

The partners dove right into menu costing because when they joined my coaching group, it was almost the start of their season. We figured out they should be running at 31% in the kitchen.

“Once we realized the strategy to get there and had the understanding of how to get there, we were able to really affect change and make a tremendous financial impact,” Jon said. “The same can be said for labor costs by going through the labor hours worked and the meals produced per hour in the kitchen and going through the budget and strategize ways to trim labor hours.”  

This is just a sampling of what Jon and I talked about. Tune into the podcast to learn:

  • How he’s changed his life, including spending more time fishing and doing things he enjoys.
  • How he empowered a manager on his team to take on responsibility and help him implement the program so he was assured success.
  • What happened when they found some people on the team who weren’t on board with the changes or up to the level of expectation and what they did about it.
  • What he was surprised about once he started the week group coaching calls.
  • The adjustments they made to their own thinking and attitude about running a restaurant and how it improved the whole experience.
  • How Jon has grown as a leader in his business.
  • The things they learned to help them make their managers more effective.
  • How being part of the coaching program has helped him regain enthusiasm for the work and how he works because he wants to, not because he has to.

You’ll also pick up some great advice from Jon and quote he lives by every day.

Restaurant owner success stories like Jon’s are why I do what I do. I hope you’ll tune in for some inspiration from him and insight into what it’s like to go through my restaurant coaching program.

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