The Scorpion and the Frog

Here is a wise old story about avoiding evil natured people in business and in life.

There is a strong lesson here.

Who do you know that is in your life that might be a scorpion?

The Scorpion and the Frog

This tale may have its roots in ancient African and/or European animal folk tales, but the first time I heard it I was a child and my father told it to me. The source of the story is not quite clear, but it’s been told and retold for centuries in books, journals, and business magazines across the globe to illustrate an important moral.

Here is my recollection and retelling of this wonderful story:

Once upon a time there was a Scorpion that wanted to cross a pond. The only problem was, since scorpions can’t swim, it needed help. Along came a nice frog, swimming along.

The scorpion said to the frog, “Hey, do you mind if I catch a ride on your back to that side of the pond over there, I can’t swim.” The frog said, “No. If I give you a ride on my back you will sting me, and then I’ll drown.”

The scorpion said, “That’s crazy. If I sting you we would BOTH drown. Why would I want to die? Do this for me and I will pay you back with my protection. We’ll be friends forever.”

The frog said, “That sounds good. OK. I’ll give you a ride. Hop on my back, let’s go.”

So the scorpion jumped on the frog’s back and started swimming. Then suddenly and without warning, the scorpion stung the frog right on the back.

The frog screamed in utter horror,” Why the hell did you just do that now we’re both going to drown!”

The scorpion smiled. “Because I am a scorpion. This is my nature.”

The point of this ancient and timeless fable is that scorpions will inevitably sting someone, even if it’s to their own detriment. Evil knows no logic and has no boundaries. That is the very nature of evil.

Think of all the people in your life. Who is like a scorpion?

They will always sting you behind your back; it is only a matter of time.

Hollywood in 1984

1984 was a very interesting year in human history, with many events of history packed into just 365 days. Indian Prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated. That same year in India, army troops were sent on June 6th into the Sikh rebel-held Golden Temple compound in Amritsar. Typhoon Ike struck the  Philippines leaving over 3,000 dead. 10 million people were facing starvation in a widespread famine that hit Ethiopia because of a major drought, (what we now call megadroughts), the Olympic games were being held in Los Angeles, and the ColecoVision Console came out for $129.99.

Tetris came out that year and became the most addictive video game of all time. Apple came out with the very first Mac computer under Steve Jobs. Brunei Gained Independence from Great Britain, the Winter Olympic Games were held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, and an IRA Bomb goes off in Grand Hotel Brighton during the Conservative Conference. English pound notes were taken out of circulation. Papa Johns pizza was born, as was MAC cosmetics.  Michael Jackson starred in a Pepsi commercial with a young Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton from The Fresh Prince).

Ronald Reagan was president of the United States. The UK and China agreed Hong Kong would revert to China’s control in 1997 (not going over so well these days).  Blockbuster films came out that would have multiple sequels and last forever in our pop culture, including Ghost-busters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ) which was my favorite movie as a kid),  Gremlins, Terminator, Romancing the Stone, and The Karate Kid all came out that year. Phil Collins was huge, Billy Joel broke out with his piano pounding videos, Tina Turner, David Bowie, UB40 popularized pop reggae music, Bruce Springsteen sang his famous “Born in the USA”, and Billy Ocean was playing on MTV.

1984 was the first year MTV held the annual MTV video music awards ( VMA’s as they are referred to now). Duran Duran released the “Reflex”. I remember as a kid the video for “Hungry Like a Wolf”, it was such a great song and the video was so cool. They didn’t need millions of dollars to make a decent music video back then, just a nice imagination and clean editing. To this day I still love all those songs and blast the radio every time 80’s songs come on. It was such a magical time and music was actually good. Justin Bieber wasn’t even born yet, so the pop music garbage that permeates the airwaves now wasn’t even created back then. Kenny Rogers was singing some country but not roasting any chickens. On TV NIghtrider was kicking ass. Cheers also came out in 1984, as did Magnum, P.I., Dynasty, Entertainment Tonight, Jeapardy!, and the A-Team with MR T.

Such iconic characters, music, TV shows, and movies, all of which have carried on in one form or another to this day. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ comic book was published. In terms of flight, Joe Kittinger became the first person to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon. Virgin Atlantic Airways was born, and Beverly Lynn Burns broke a glass ceiling for women pilots when she became the first female pilot in the world to captain a Boeing 747. In Hollywood in 1984 a little chicken shop opened up on Sunset and Normandie called Zankou Chicken. Right away people from all over town came to have it’s chicken, shawerma, and falafel. At the time we didn’t have kabobs, tabouleh, or even Chicken tarns.

The menu was smaller, just like the place itself. With such humble beginnings Zankou was born into the plethora of the culture of the United States. How did my father and grandfather do it? How did they bring the name over and make it so successful when most businesses that transferred over from Lebanon did not do so well. How were they able to not only survive but thrive, making a one store outlet into 4 branches? More specifically, how was my mom able to survive and thrive even after everything we went through in 2003?

I remember in the 80’s, when we were kids, I would play at an arcade machine just beside our store on Sunset and Normandie. My grandfather Vartkes, my dad’s dad, loved us very much. I don’t think he had a close relationship at all with my father, so whatever was lacking there for whatever reason for so many years, he used me and my brothers to kind of make up for I guess. He would give me rolls of quarters and I would play this game by a Japanese manufacturer called Taito called “Elevator Action”. I would play that game for hours and easily burn through $20 in quarters in under an hour.  It was in a cheesy donut shop right next to us, adjacent to our store, in a spot that’s now being used by a liquor store on Sunset and Normandie.

In those days, my grandfather would physically chase out vagrants and drunkards that would come in and out from Sunset Boulevard. Many years later it’s now filled with hipsters and cleaned up, but not very much. Even in new Hollywood we have the $300 million hotels and apartment buildings but we also still have a huge homeless problem in the area. Not that much has changed.

The 7 P’s of Marketing

7ps-marketing1   THE MARKETING MIX E. Jerome McCarthy created the Marketing Mix in 1960. Since then, the 4P’s have been featured in every online marketing article and marketing textbook in the nation, often alongside other materials featured in various books and seminars on the subject. It has since evolved into 7 or sometimes 8 P’s of marketing. The Original 4 Ps of Marketing:   1)   Product – It all starts with the product. The most important thing in your business, as any marketing professional will tell you, is the quality of the product itself. No amount of marketing will make up for a badly thought up restaurant or food product. I can tell you this from personal experience, after helping my brother open a soft-serve, fresh yogurt establishment called Creme de la Creme in Burbank, California. We opened it next to our store in Burbank. The yogurt was made fresh, was tangy and tasty, and the toppings were always fresh and plentiful. Was the product good? Yes it was, but apparently not good enough because we eventually closed the business down. The point of the story is that being good enough is not good enough. Your product has to be great, fabulous, awesome, perfect, exciting, different, tantalizing, alluring, seductive, fun, colorful, attention -grabbing, and inquisitive. If it’s not all of these things, don’t even bother. I highly recommend you read a book called Blue Ocean Strategies. I have mentioned it before, and I always recommend good friends and family to read this book. It was one of the required reading assignments during my last year of my bachelor’s degree in management at Woodbury University. I forgot most of what we studied back in those years, I’m sure as most of you that did an undergrad degree forgot the course materials as well. But I will never forget the underlying premise of that book, which is as important today as it was when it was written. In fact if they ever do an anniversary edition or something like that, it would be my thrill and honor to write a great opening paragraph for that book. It really did change my life because it taught me to hope and think outside the box. You should never think in terms of creating a new product to fight within an industry, you should create an industry unto itself. Much like Cirque du Soleil has done by creating a circus without animals, or what Apple did for music, phones, and more recently in 2015, for watches. They did not follow the norm but pretended they were starting from scratch. Apple asks itself, if a phone or watch did not exist, what should it look like today? What should it do? So the question we should be asking ourselves today is not “how do I make a better burger?” It should be more like, “What is the niche market no one is even trying to target? Is there a need out there that people are so hungry for, people are always talking about and asking for, but the big corporations are too busy “thinking inside the box” to actually listen to the consumers? If you have a well-researched answer to this all-important question, you just may have helped create the next big “Gold Mine“. Whether you want to create the next Starbucks or the next Subway Sandwiches, you need first evaluate what need the market is not addressing. For us it’s obviously fresh, fast-casual Mediterranean food, which is why we feel we have room to grow. Our goal is to be included in the INC 500 fastest growing companies. How will we get there? By working with the right people, getting investors, and through networking and leverage. These are all the same things you should be striving for. These universal goals and methods will never change, it is just up to the right teams to find and implement them. It all begins with the having the right product. 2) Place – Remember the story of the Glenoaks Zankou? We opened a second store in Glendale based on ill-conceived advice about our competition possibly opening across the street. So in reality, the decision to open there was based on 1) fear 2) irrational thoughts 3) Decisions done without enough homework or analytical information 4) Poor timing 5) Outside influence   When you look at this list above, think of all the decisions we have all made based on these factors. Every single time we have done this, we were wrong and usually paid a heavy price. In our situation, I lost over $50,000 cash invested, and we lost about $150,000 per month for the course of a year and a half. You need not pay such a high price if you listen to the advice in this book. Imagine if the $30 or so you invested in this book can save you $300,000. Would that be a wise investment? Of course it would! So do your homework and make sure the place is extremely well thought out. Remember the old adage in the restaurant business: location, location, location. 3) PriceThere has to be great value given in exchange for the money customers give you. Notice that nowhere in this previous sentience did I ever use the word “cheap”. I don’t want you (or us) to ever be cheap. Cheap and drink is for cheap people, and we are not cheap people. We are people of high quality, that demand and require high quality food and service everywhere we go, and we should require no less from the businesses we establish. Starbucks is not cheap, and neither are my other favorite brands. Habit burger is not cheap. A nice double char, salad, and drink will set you back over $10 easily. The Veggie Grill is not cheap. A decent veggie burger, salad, hot wings and a drink for 2 will set you back over $30. The point is the very best restaurants and bars out there, the ones making bank, are not cheap. A good price represents value, so you have to be wise when you develop the menu. Make sure the high profit items are highlighted better, and give them prominence. Make sure the popular expensive cost items are not featured as much, or if they happen to be very popular it may be time to do a price increase. Don’t be shy or timid about this. Keep focused on quality and service, and people will keep coming. You have to have faith and keep fighting, never give up. Relenting on price and settling for lower quality only to decrease the numbers after the dollar sign on the menu is tantamount to surrender.     4)  Promotion – Make sure signs are as large as possible and vivid. Use great marketing colors. I personally love red and yellow, and on printing materials I love black, cream, red, and yellow. These are my colors, but they don’t necessarily have to be your colors. The Zankou T-shirt is yellow and red. I don’t know why my dad and grandfather chose these colors, but they did. Maybe because a chicken is yellow? I don’t know, but it has since become an iconic representation of all things Zankou. people write to us on our Facebook page and email us pictures of them wearing the famous Zankou T-shirts in Chicago, New York, and Miami. We love it because every time people buy a cheap T-shirt for under $20 they are in fact marketing us all over the world! What a privilege, to be able to charge people for the “benefit” of them marketing your brand all over the place and everywhere they go, from the gym to jogging on the sidewalk to the malls. It’s a great privilege and honor, and one you can have too if your promotions are being done right. Think of Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, online and offline. What kind of promotions can you do there? What about in newspapers, magazines, other print ads and radio? The possibilities are endless. Don’t make the mistake many businesses make when thinking about promotion, and that is advertising or marketing just before or right after the ship starts sinking. Remember, marketing and advertising are something you ought to be doing continuously throughout the year. It’s not some kind of lifeline you toss to your business at the last minute, when you ignored all the marketing and advertising efforts that came your way because you were too busy doing the other aspects of the business. Let me say this right now, right off the bat, kitchen and operations people do not understand or enjoy marketing. If they are given any marketing duties whatsoever, you can be guaranteed these tasks will go incomplete and never get done. If this sounds like you, and you’re reading this book, that is completely fine. Just realize that as an operations guy (or girl) you can’t do everything. Designate someone you trust to do your marketing for you. Don;t just ignore that department completely; it’s a mistake that will cost your business dearly.   I avoid clients for whom advertising is only a marginal factor in their marketing mix. They have an awkward tendency to raid their advertising appropriations whenever they need cash for other purposes. David Ogilvy     5) People – What is an organization without its people? Nothing. From the top to the bottom the people are what really matter when it comes to leading an extraordinary restaurant empire. Managers, shift leaders, line cooks, chefs, kitchen supply experts, cashiers, even the delivery people that bring us the supplies are all an important link in this chain. Break one link off and what happens to the entire chain? It falls apart. We are as strong as our weakest link, so in marketing it’s very important not just to have the right people but to train them repeatedly, until they either get it right or you get someone that gets it right. The right employees and associates make all the difference in the world. They are always there, even when we are not. It’s paramount to get the right people in there, because they become the face of the brand and the entire organization. Never underestimate how important having the right people is. I would say it’s on par with the quality of the product itself. Because if your product is great and your customers love it, what if the service sucks? Will these customers ever come back after your staff is rude to them, gets orders wrong, won’t apologize or make it right, can’t speak English, or talk behind the customers’ backs? Would you ever return to a business that tolerates that kind of behavior?     6) Processes –  Ray Crock would love this part. For him it was all about the process. That system that’s set in place with rules and regulations about everything you can imagine, right down to each pickle on every hamburger and the temperature of the fries. But just like everything else, there is a downsize to being too rigid when it comes to processes. This reminds me of a story of the time I was visiting Germany. Germany was the last leg of a long and elaborate European tour my ex-wife and I had embarked on, and we stopped in a little town called ______________________. There was a nice black church that was built  high in the center of town and many historic landmarks. We stopped somewhere and they gave us a 45 minute break on the bus tour to eat wherever we wanted. I was in no mood for a food adventure or to try a weird restaurant I could possibly get sick at (think of the Italy food-poisoning story), so we opted to eat at a McDonald’s. Now I don’t know about you but when I eat somewhere, even if it’s McDonald’s, I want my food to be hot. Not just lukewarm, acceptable hot. I want it to be so hot that if I eat it quickly enough it could just possibly burn my mouth. Because to me, french fries and a burger are ONLY tasty when it’s scorching hot. But on that day, they gave us our Big mac and chicken McNuggets lukewarm. Now the Germans are a very smart, proud, yet methodically functioning people. They are like a clock, and they follow rules to the T. They dot their I’s, so to speak. So when I asked the cashier to give it to me at a very hot temperature, she smiled and said yes, but they never really gave it to me at a hotter temperature, only the one I suppose the parent company told them was “appropriate.” The point is, this methodically “everything is the same all the time” mentality that currently pervades our industry is not the best thing that’s happened to us. Because of industrialization and in an effort to reduce errors on the part of minimum wage workers, they have made everything so robotic that the food is never very tasty. It’s just “acceptable,” but at least it’s routinely acceptable. So the food at a McDonald’s, anywhere in the world, is consistent. Consistently bad. Make sure the employees follow careful processes that are written down, but give them enough room to not only grow as people but make certain decisions on their own. Give them the freedom and understanding to be able to help customers. Don’t make them just act like robots, this is terrible.   Physical Environment What kind of physical environment would you like to convey? Pink’s hot dog stand near Melrose isn’t much of a royal environment. A small hot dog stand in the south west of Hollywood, it stands alone as the one source of last minute club food Angelinos enjoy every day. But people in LA don’t go to Pink’s only as a last resort. The place is packed almost any time of day, drawing long lines of hungry customers. I love Garrett’s Popcorn in Chicago. There is nothing like it in LA, although we do have Popcornopolis. That place has a great atmosphere, with large popcorn stands and corn popping in the background all the time. Though not as fresh or buttery as Garrett, it seems to do the job.   The physical environment you create around your brand doesn’t have to cost millions of dollars. The atmosphere we created in Burbank did cost about a million dollars. It has a plasticized olive tree in the middle, meant to signify our beautiful Middle Eastern culture us Armenians from Lebanon brought with us. We mixed it with Italian style stone layers on the columns, and a hand-painted mural in the middle above the tree. That dome was painted on for many weeks, a beautiful painting based off art from a church in Turin, Italy. Such extravagant art and modeling can’t be copied at every location. The size does not permit that, so we intend  to go with a more modern, standardized procedure in the future with more red, shiny colors, deeper blacks, and more use of stainless steel. As long as your created environment mirrors the brand, the feel and tone of what your company stands for, this is what matters. This can be done relatively cheaply. You need not spend millions. It’s more of a matter of finding a decent contractor and down to earth designer. It’s very important that the physical environment matches the brand, the high quality and equity of what your company is trying to convey. Some of these brands like Pink’s got it easy. They don’t have to look the part. But more recently this has changed, since brands like Chipotle and Blaze are setting a new trend of making fast casual not just clean and organized, but each store having a nice and distinctive feel to it that communicates quality and taste.   The 8TH P Productivity is the eight and last P. Productivity is just as important as the other P’s. The way to get to highly productive employees is to keep them happy, communicate often, tell them you appreciate them, and give them as much freedom and responsibility to complete their duties as possible. Notice  I said to complete their tasks, not to goof around and play silly games. I often walk inside restaurants to find staff flirting, wasting time, making jokes, on their cell phones, or worse not even looking at customers nor caring about our wants and needs. People can play and be silly on their time. No staff should take their job or position lightly. I am a big believer in the “work hard play hard” mentality. When it’s time to party, I think I know how to party. But you will never see me playing stupid or silly games with my staff or associates. When I am at work I am serious. Employees and customers are always watching you. Be on your best behavior, even if they’re not. It’s a sign of maturity and leadership.   Productivity & Quality –  Sources 1)

O Lord Give Us This Day Our Daily Hummus and Pita


The days of cold are past

And days of spring have buried winter’s rain

We see the doves returning to our land

They flock near to the newly sprouted leaves

So my friends, be true and keep your word

Be careful and do not disappoint your friend

Come into my garden

Roses are waiting, beautifully fragrant and ready to pluck

Come and drink with me, among the buds and birds

Gathered there to sing the summer’s praises

Wine, red as my tears for loss,

Of friends, or red as the blush on lovers’ cheeks.

— Samuel the Nagid (993-1055 A.D.)


A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. Ecclesiastes 10:19

Food is everything. Without it, you wouldn’t be reading this book and you certainly wouldn’t have had dreams of opening a restaurant. If it weren’t for food, newspapers would have a hard time getting their readers interested in politics, culture, business—or any other subject. Travel writers and novelists would have trouble invoking personal memories or making sentimental associations. And scholars would be at a loss to understand not just how crucial aspects of life evolved on our planet but also how global history was shaped by what our distant ancestors put in their stomachs.

It is said that Adam’s sin was to come forth into the world through the stomach rather than the loins—and that humanity was thereafter forever condemned to toil for food by tilling the soil and feeding on a diet of cereals instead of the nectar and ambrosia that flowed in the Garden of Eden. It was the ancient Egyptians who first developed agriculture around 3100 B.C. and refined many cooking techniques, particularly for bread, vegetables, legumes and beer.

In 1799, the French emperor Napoleon began consolidating his empire in the Mediterranean, setting the stage for a sweeping European expansion into North Africa and the Middle East that introduced new foods—and food habits—across that region and beyond. The result: the famed Mediterranean diet—a mix of indigenous traditions and foreign influences.

The Mediterranean Diet 

The Mediterranean diet is indisputably healthier than the diets of affluent Western societies. The people of the Mediterranean have a lower incidence of heart disease, cancer and digestive disorders, attributed directly to their diet and lifestyle. A high proportion of the total energy (more than 60%) in Mediterranean food comes from cereals, while a low proportion of total energy (less than 30%) comes from fats. A high concentration of the fats in the Mediterranean diet, in turn, comes from olive oil, thereby making the diet low in saturated fatty acids. Further, the Mediterranean diet is has a relatively high proportion of fruit and vegetables, which account for roughly half the dietary fiber consumed.

Mediterranean cuisine is as diverse as its society and cultures. The sweet and sour flavors of Sicilian dishes contrast sharply with the complex spices of North African cooking, which are missing from Greek or Cypriot cuisine. There are, however, a number of key ingredients that are common to Mediterranean cuisine and distinguish it from other cuisines. Today, we think of the Mediterranean diet as consisting of olive oil, pasta, fish, bread, vegetables and fresh fruits. But since ancient times, traditional the Mediterranean diet was based on cereals, legumes, fish and produce—the legacy of a string of great civilizations of the past. These included not just the Greek and the Romans but also the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and the Arabs.

The reason why so much is known about the food habits in the ancient Mediterranean, particularly Egypt, Greece and Rome, is because of the work of historians and scholars of the classics, who used a variety of sources to chronicle everyday life in the region. These literary sources range from Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey to the detailed work of the 3rd-century Greek scholar Athenaeus, a librarian who composed a 15-volume work titled The Deipnosophists (Banquet of the Learned), which contains elaborate notes about Greek food and cookery.

Ancient Egypt

The bulk of information about food in ancient Egypt dates back to the period after Egypt became a centralized state in 3100 B.C. during the era of the pharaohs. The core of the Egyptian diet consisted of bread and beer, which were consumed by the rich and poor alike. (The first written word in the world, it is said, was an Egyptian hieroglyphic alluding to an order for beer.) Bread was most commonly made from emmer, an ancient grain, although barley and sprouted wheat were also used. Fruits and vegetables were regarded as non-necessity foods largely unavailable to the poor because the high cost of watering and tending them. The poor are said to have supplemented their diet instead with wild plants such as amaranth, sorrel and wild grasses.

Rich Egyptians, on the other hand, had access to vegetables, fruits, meat and wine. Olive oil, first imported from Palestine, was also consumed by the rich. In fact, an excavated tomb of a wealthy Egyptian from the third millennium B.C. contained barley, porridge, cooked quail, fish, beef, bread, cheese, wine, pastries, figs, berries and beer.

A number of ancient Egyptian dishes have survived to this day and are enjoyed by modern Egyptians. These include kofta, or Egyptian meatballs, made from lamb or beef, and often grilled. These days, kofta is usually eaten in a pita bread sandwich. The national dish of Egypt, ful medames, or fuul medammis, is a fava bean preparation that is slow-cooked and seasoned with olive oil, parsley, onions and lemon juice. It’s a popular breakfast food, eaten with bread.

Ancient Greeks

The staple foods of the Greeks of yore were wheat, barley and lentils. The Greeks loved wheat, even though it was expensive, and made a variety of breads of out of wheat flour. The most popular were flatbreads, with toppings baked on them. These included boletus, or rolls shaped like mushrooms; cubo, a square bread flavored with anise, cheese and oil; and streptikos, a twisted bread made with milk, pepper and lard. The Greeks ate their bread with mint sauce or a mixture of vinegar and garum (fermented fish sauce). Ancient Greeks ate their staples along with vegetables, cheese, eggs, fish and sometimes the meat of lamb, sheep, goat, pig or game birds. These foods were washed down with wine—and followed by a variety of sweets and desserts.

The ancient Greeks appeared to have somewhat strict rules about the types of food they consumed at different times of the day. Soldiers, for example, ate a lot of bread—but only as a snack or as a meal in itself, never for dinner. A soldier’s dinner consisted mostly of roasted meat. Appetizers included olives, sea urchins, wild hyacinth bulbs (also used in love potions), stuffed grape leaves, grasshoppers and cicadas. Soups were made from barely or legumes such as lentils. And because they live on an island, the ancient Greeks had access to a variety of seafood—everything from lobster, shrimp and tuna to octopus, squid and swordfish. Desserts consisted of a ricotta and honey mixture, fried dough balls, cheese-based pies, soft cookies, sweet breads and even a sweetened lentil dessert.

Ancient Greeks made such great cooks that they are believed to be the first people to elevate cooking to an art. They were especially good at innovating and experimenting in the kitchen by making use of all the ingredients available to them and combining them in new ways. This culinary innovation has become the hallmark of today’s Mediterranean food—who has not heard of a kitchen in any respectable Western restaurant where the chefs continually experiment with new tastes. And it was the enormous appetites of the ancient Greeks that fostered culinary innovation, as author Betty Wason explains in The Mediterranean Cookbook:

Darius, king of the Medes and Persians, maintained a staff of gastronomic detectives whose sole function was to search for new and delectable foods to tempt the appetite of the ruler. Xerxes, Darius’s son and successor, demanded such variety for his table that the countryside, wherever he traveled, was laid bare. “Wherever Xerxes took two meals, dining as well as supping,” wrote Herodotus, “that city was utterly ruined.”

Ancient Rome

Wheat, olives, pork and fish was pretty much the diet of Romans in the first several centuries of their recorded existence. Only when Roman conquests began at the end of the third century did the Romans encounter a whole new world of foods—not just “exotic spices from Indonesia, pickles from Spain, ham from Gaul, wine from the provinces, oysters from Britain and pomegranates from Libya” but “new seasonings, ingredients and flavors from North Africa, Egypt, the Middle East, and most notably, Greece.”

The Greek culinary influence in Rome spanned the gamut from cumin, coriander, oregano, poppy seeds and hyssop to honey, anise, dill, thyme, vinegar and wine. It’s hard to imagine that the Roman ancestors of present-day Italians ate a bland diet until the expansion of the Roman empire, but the truth is that Roman cooks learned pretty much everything about Italian food as we know it today from their foreign encounters. And while these influences radically altered Roman food, not everyone benefited: the poor, and the slaves, peasants and soldiers, still ate an insipid diet of pulses or gruel, sometimes flavored with fennel or mushroom, both of which grew wild. Only those who could afford it, added lentils, legumes such as chickpeas or fava beans to their gruel.

To this day, Sicilians—whose ancestors were known to be the best cooks in the Roman empire—eat a dish known as maccu, or fava bean soup, a staple food since ancient times. The dish can sometimes found on restaurant menus as a nostalgic peasant food. The dish is made by boiling fava beans with fennel sprigs, fennel seeds, salt, pepper and olive oil. Pasta, onion or tomatoes are sometimes added to the soup.

Romans ate four meals a day—lunch, a midday meal, a substantial afternoon snack and finally dinner. Like the Greeks, the Romans developed phenomenal appetites. With time, the Roman banquet became famous for its elaborate rituals and consumption of food, vividly depicted in paintings from the times that show men reclined on couches, propped on the left side and eating and drinking with their right hand. A large staff of servants and slaves was always in attendance. It included a praegustator, who tasted the food beforehand to see if it was delicious enough to serve, and a nomenclature, who informed the nobility about the names of each dish.


Wheat dates back more than 10,000 years in the Mediterranean region. It is by far the most important grain throughout the Mediterranean, although historically grains such as emmer—a bread grain of ancient Egypt—and barley were the major grains of the region. Wheat is grown in Spain, Greece, Italy, Tunisia and Syria. The most preferred type of wheat in Mediterranean cuisine is the hard or durum variety, which makes for a high-quality, protein-rich flour known as semolina. Durum wheat is said to date back to the Neolithic era and was probably imported to the Mediterranean region from the Middle East.

Not for nothing is wheat called the monarch of foods. Practitioners of ayurveda, the Indian system of herbal medicine, believe that no other dietary staple, with the exception of fresh yogurt buttermilk, provides such greatly concentrated nourishment for all the seven tissues of the body—the bone, marrow, muscles, nerves, skin, semen and blood. Like its cousin barley, wheat is not associated with any particular deficiency disease. In contrast, corn is associated with pellagra and rice with beri-beri. Further, the human system digests wheat more readily than any other grain or cereal because of wheat’s capacity to absorb water, thereby conducting heat uniformly throughout the grain.

The Mediterranean Region in Modernity

Centuries after the last Roman banquet of one of the world’s greatest empires, Queen Margherita of the House of Savoy, tried a pizza topped with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella on a visit to Naples in 1889. How the pizza margherita got its name may be a footnote in history, but anyone who sets up an Italian restaurant—or a pizzeria—would do well to commit that detail to memory.

The next big culinary “development” occurred during World War II, from 1939 to 1945, when widespread destruction and food shortages wracked the Mediterranean region. The postwar period not only brought decolonization but a host of liberalized trade policies that affected how people ate. Nutritional intake improved, as did the amount and variety of food available for purchase. But it wasn’t until 1975 that people began to get interested in the Mediterranean diet. What sparked their attention was a book, titled How to Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way, by an American physician named Ancel Keys. Unfortunately—or perhaps inevitably—the decade of the 1980s was marked by the expansion of American fast-food restaurants into parts of the Mediterranean and Europe. And then the pendulum swung back in 1989 as the so-called Slow Food movement, a reaction to the “McDonaldization” of the planet, gained momentum.

Mediterranean food is a fascinating blend of tradition and innovation—a set of practices and attitudes that are as diverse as they are simple. This is a cuisine that combines the food cultures of present-day nations stretching from Egypt, Lebanon and Israel to Spain, Morocco and Greece. Lebanon and Israel, both gateways to the Occident, are places where the cuisine was modified to suit Western tastes. What makes Mediterranean food stand out is the extraordinary dedication of its people to how the food is bought, prepared and consumed. This is food that is natural, fresh and deliberately uncomplicated—precisely the opposite of industrial food as well as haute cuisine. The people of the Mediterranean have long been known for their hospitality. This cultural value is so important that there are specific codes of conduct applied to it. For one, people have an obligation to be hospitable at just about every opportunity that arises in their social interactions, including business meetings and encounters with others while shopping.

Traditionally, shopkeepers are supposed to play host to anyone who walks into their store by offering them a casual cup of coffee—mingled with conversation—before any business is done. And although this is not exactly part of the Mediterranean food code, the act of business almost always entails some earnest bargaining. To many Westerners, bargaining seems distasteful. But besides being loads of fun, a good bargain establishes a buyer-and-seller relationship that is unmatched in the Western worldview of “fixed prices” for the simple reason that it is based on mutual trust, respect—and occasionally true friendship. Any discussion of Mediterranean cuisine must begin with bread, not least because it is by far the most important and frequently consumed food in the entire history of human nutrition. Think about it: Not only is bread synonymous with life and spiritual rebirth—through the Eucharist—people throughout history have traveled from one country to another in search of it. There are those who believe their homeland is where bread is. Others invoke bread to express their sense of belonging to a particular place.

The Polish poet C.K. Norwid, for example, wrote nostalgically that he missed the country where people have such respect for bread that they pick up the slightest crumb from the ground. (In India, where that happens all the time, people take the crumb and touch it to their heads.) The earliest historical information about bread in the Mediterranean region can be traced to Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization in modern-day Iraq, located roughly between that nation’s two major rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia around the beginning of the 4th millennium B.C. depicts the activity of eating through a pictogram of a head—with a piece of bread. It’s not surprising why bread was treated with a kind of reverence in Mediterranean culture that might seem somewhat absurd to Americans.

There are historical reasons for this. Over the centuries, bread was considered such an important food that rulers, churches and governments carefully monitored the availability and price of flour to prevent any shortages that could result in rioting. In some Mediterranean regions, especially North Africa and the Middle East, the price of bread is still a political issue. In Egypt, where millions subsist at or near the poverty line, high bread prices threaten the population’s existence.

The Poem of Gilgamesh, considered the world’s oldest piece of verse, not to mention one of the most valuable literary works, bread is remembered by both those suffering from hunger and those wanting to feed them. In fact, bread had such a divine status in Mesopotamia that bakers were exempt from military service. (Imagine if that happened in America during the Vietnam War—donut shop owners would be free to curate confectionary with names such as B-52 Bomber.) In fact, many Middle East nations still observe a special day that is set aside for bread—the first day of April. The Assyrians, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, have long celebrated April 1 as their New Year—an occasion for a national feast that heralds the onset of spring. On that day, Assyrian bakers are said to have baked loaves of bread weighing just under 50 pounds (30 kilograms, to be precise). Gigantic rounded cakes resembling the sun or the full moon, rounded flat bread is still eaten by almost half the world’s population.


No discussion of bread is complete without examining the most important grain that goes into its making—wheat. Wheat dates back more than 10,000 years in the Mediterranean region. It is by far the most important grain throughout the Mediterranean, although historically grains such as emmer—a bread grain of ancient Egypt—and barley were the major grains of the region. Wheat is grown in Spain, Greece, Italy, Tunisia and Syria. The most preferred type of wheat in Mediterranean cuisine is the hard or durum variety, which makes for a high-quality, protein-rich flour known as semolina. Durum wheat is said to date back to the Neolithic era and was probably imported to the Mediterranean region from the Middle East.

Not for nothing is wheat called the monarch of foods. Practitioners of ayurveda, the Indian system of herbal medicine, believe that no other dietary staple, with the exception of fresh yogurt buttermilk, provides such greatly concentrated nourishment for all the seven tissues of the body—the bone, marrow, muscles, nerves, skin, semen and blood. Like its cousin barley, wheat is not associated with any particular deficiency disease. In contrast, corn is associated with pellagra and rice with beri-beri. Further, the human system digests wheat more readily than any other grain or cereal because of wheat’s capacity to absorb water, thereby conducting heat uniformly throughout the grain.

Bulgur is a cereal food made from wheat, often durum wheat. After the wheat is parboiled and dried, its husk is removed and grain is cracked. Bulgur is also referred to as cracked wheat, although it differs from cracked wheat because it’s parboiled and does not have any bran. A coarse form of bulgur is used to make tabbouleh, which is a salad made out of bulgur, tomato, parsley and mint. Bulgar is also used to make pilaf, a dish in which the grain is mixed with onions, tomatoes and peppers, sautéed in butter and frequently boiled in meat stock.

Pita, which should probably be spelled “peeta” to distinguish it from the Hindi-language pronunciation of the same word that means “father,” is another name for Syrian bread. It’s Biblical name is kikkar. Arabs call it khobiz or khubz adi, the Egyptians aish and baladi. The Farsi—Persian—name for pita is naan, which is also what the Indians and Pakistanis call it. In Yemen it’s salufe. It is said that because the people of the Middle East did not use silverware, pieces of pita bread were ideal for grasping food. (Indeed, the flatness of the bread probably rendered plates redundant.) When pita wasn’t being used to shovel food, it was torn into bite-sized chunks, spread over a platter or in a bowl, and a stew was poured on top. Warm pita served with honey and a clarified butter known as samneh was an exceptional treat. Pita, a word typically—but erroneously—associated with the Greek language, has been baked throughout the Middle East since the beginning of recorded history.

The Greek nexus is almost surely misleading because there is no ancient Greek terminology to trace the word back to. Pita almost surely derives from the Hebrew word paht, which means “piece of bread.” The equivalent of the word in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, is indeed pita, and has been in use for millennia. Abraham, in the book of Genesis, spoke of path lechem (piece of bread). Pita had not appeared in the Greek language until at least 1492, when the nomadic Sephardim people arrived in the town of Salonika in the eastern Mediterranean in large numbers. It is thought that they tried to differentiate the relatively small and round flatbreads they encountered in Spain with the thicker loaves they made back home by calling them pita. The Sephardim also use the word pita to refer to variety of savory pies.

And because Jews constituted the majority of Salonika’s population from 1519 to the early 20th century, it was somewhat natural that the word spread not just to people who weren’t Jewish but throughout Greece. In fact, the 16th-century Neapolitan word pizza appears to be derived from pita. Pita bread as we know it today is a round loaf that has a natural pocket between its upper and lower layers. This ingenious, distinctive creation appears to be a relatively recent one by bakers in the Levant or Egypt. The compartment between the bread’s surfaces is produced by baking a slender and moist piece of yeasty dough in an extremely hot oven where the heat turns the water inside the dough into steam, thereby puffing the dough and separating its interior into two layers. One of the strange things about pita is that it is rarely homemade—even in countries where it is part of the staple diet. Instead, pita is one of the most purchased foods in supermarkets from Israel to Inglewood.

In 2010, Angel Bakery, Israel’s largest bakery based in Jerusalem, baked 10,000 machine-made pitas every day for the city. Numerous more pitas, some of them handmade, were produced by smaller bakeries. It’s not surprising, then, that Israeli immigrants have helped make pita popular in America. The word first appeared in the United States in an article in the December 16, 1949 issue of The Jewish Criterion, a newspaper in Pittsburgh. Titled “A Guide for Tourists,” the article referred to the “bland succulence of ‘tehina’ and ‘chumus,’ eaten with pita. Despite attempt to popularize pita in New York City’s 1964 World Fair, it wasn’t until the 1970s that pita migrated from America’s ethnic enclaves to become mainstream fare. It is now sold in just about every grocery store from New Jersey to New Mexico.


Pita is often paired with falafel, also spelled felafel, which are Middle Eastern deep-fried balls of highly spiced, ground chickpeas. A yogurt sauce or tahini is often added to the falafel, and hummus is also frequently combined. Another highly popular pairing with pita is that of shawarma, an ancient Middle Eastern combination. It is a piece of thinly sliced roasted, seasoned lamb. Other spellings include chawarma, shaurma and showarmaShawarma consists of highly seasoned slices of marinated meat, usually lamb, stacked about two feet tall on a skewer and roasted slowly on a vertical spit facing a flame.

It is the Arabic name for what many in the Middle East call döner kebab (döner means “one that turns”), which Middle-eastern immigrants carried to Germany and England and turned it into a favorite fast food. The roots of shawarma can be traced back to Egypt around the 1830s, not long after the mechanical, vertical rotisserie was invented, paving the way for this dish to become one of the favorite Middle Eastern foods. Shawarma is best when it’s prepared fresh to order. As the rotisserie turns, paper-thin slices of caramelized meat are carefully shaved from the roasted surface with a sharp knife. The falling shards are then piled into a pita—traditionally—or eaten with rice.


Shawarma has a close cousin—kebab. Often referred to as the shish kebab, especially in South Asia and America, it is a form of Middle Eastern gilled or broiled meat that originated in medieval Persia. The Farsi name for kebab is kabab, while some also call it kebap. The Persian name for kebab is said to have derived from the Aramaic word kabbaba, which means “burning” and “charring.” In 1226, a cookbook from Baghdad by Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Karim al-Katib al-Baghdadi, contains what’s probably the earliest written record of kebabs and stews. Roasting small pieces of meat is a practice dating back to antiquity.

Bedouins—nomads—in the Middle East as well as soldiers cooked meat over open fires. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the Mediterranean’s grilled and broiled meat as kebabs. In fact, sis is a term that means “sword” or “skewer.” It was attached as a prefix to the Persian kebab, and in the late 19th century döner kebab became a synonym for shawarma. The kebab has made inroads throughout Asia, introduced to the continent by sea-faring Arab traders. In Indonesia, the dish takes the form of the slightly sweet chicken satay. Thais typically make their kebabs from pork.

Vietnamese add lemongrass as a marinating ingredient and serve their kebabs with a dipping sauce that includes fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. The Japanese serve chicken yakitori, accompanied by a syrup of soy sauce, sake and sugar. But it’s in India where the largest variety of kebabs can be found—thanks to several centuries of Muslim influence. In India, kebabs are roasted, broiled, baked, shallow-fried, deep-fried, cooked in pots, on heated stones and even in eggshells. They are made with minced meat, shredded meat, cubed meat or cooked meat.

The term shish kebab made its way into the English language around 1913. Known as shashlik in the Caucasus, basturma in Georgia and frigarui in Romania, it refers to any kind of meat—beef, lamb or chicken—cut into roughly one-inch-square or larger cubes and grilled on skewers. In parts of the Arab world, these roasted chunks of meat are called lahm mishwi. In Iraq—and India and Pakistan—they are called tikka. Whatever the terminology, roasted pieces of skewered meat have been eaten for centuries across the Indian Subcontinent to the Caucasus and the Balkans. Many recipes call for the meat to be marinated but also be kept moist while being grilled.


For many people, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cuisine is synonymous with hummus bi tahini, which is typically eaten with warm pita bread. Hummus is a sauce made primarily from four ingredients—cooked and mashed chickpeas seasoned with a paste of tahini (sesame oil) or olive oil, lemon juice and garlic.

One of the world’s first cultivated crops, chickpeas stand out in the world of legumes. Unlike beans and lentils, the chickpea does not have a smooth surface. Instead it is wrinkled and roundish, although its sides are flattened, with a projecting radicle that resembles a chick’s beak. Chickpeas also do not share a pod with other seeds, as most legumes do. Instead, a chickpea has just one mature pea per pod. Sweet-flavored and smooth-textured, the chickpea is known to have health benefits for the spleen, pancreas, stomach and heart. The chickpea provides more vitamin C and nearly twice the amount of iron than most legumes.

Tahini is made from hulled sesame seeds. A creamy and smooth paste high in protein, it is a culinary staple of the Middle East as well as some Asian cuisines. It is also used as an oily ingredient in sauces and desserts. In some cuisines, tahini serves as a replacement for oil, egg or milk.

The people of the Levant are said to have secret techniques and flavorings, passed from generation to generation, which create special tastes and textures. A hint of cumin is considered to be vital for good hummus—as is the use of dried chickpeas soaked and cooked from scratch instead of relying on the canned variety. The puree of hummus is usually served as a smooth, creamy paste, although there are those who prefer the texture a bit coarse. A drizzle of olive oil, lightly sprinkled with sumac, sweet paprika or cayenne, rounds up the dish deliciously. Some like hummus topped with pine nuts, whole chickpeas, chopped parsley or minced garlic.

The precise history of hummus is not clear. It was once a peasant food, and therefore not mentioned in medieval Persian or Arabic texts. The earliest record of a related chickpea dish is a recipe for Hummus Kasa (kasa means a “coarse woolen cloth”) in an anonymous 13th-centuryu Cairo cookbook titled Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada. The recipe calls for pounding chickpeas after boiling them and combining them with vinegar instead of lemon juice, oil, tahini, pepper, atraf tib (mixed spices), mint, parsley, dry thyme, ground walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios, cinnamon, toasted caraway, dry coriander, salt, salted lemons and olives.

The elaborate concoction is then to be stirred, rolled flat and left overnight before it’s served. The word hummus first appeared in English in the December 16, 1949 issue of the Pittsburg newspaper The Jewish Criterion. The paper referred to “the bland succulence of ‘tehina and chumus,’ eaten with hunks of the platter-shaped bread peeta.” By the end of the 20th century, hummus, like pita, would be part of the American culinary fabric. The United Kingdom has adopted hummus with even greater enthusiasm. Usually spelled houmous, the dish is known to have been eaten by more than 8 million Brits on a regular basis in 2008, compared to 15 million in the U.S., although the U.S. has five times as many people as England.


  • Food and Society in Classical Antiquity, by Peter Garnsey, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind, by D. Diringer, Wojciech Hensel, Warsaw, 1972.
  • Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, by Gil Marks, John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
  • Look &  Feel: Studies in Texture, Appearance and Incidental Characteristics of Food, Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 1993, Prospect Books, 1994.
  • Food Culture in the Mediterranean, by Carol Helstosky, Greenwood Press, 2009.
  • The Mediterranean Cookbook, by Betty Wasson, Harry Regnery, 1973.
  • The Pharaoh’s Feast: From Pit-Boiled Roots to Pickled Herring, Cooking Through the Ages with 110 Simple Recipes, by Oswald Rivera, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003.
  • Dhanwantari, by Harish Johari, Rupa Paperbacks, 1992.
  • Photo credit: Zankou Chicken

The Top 12 Skills Every Manager Should Have

Top 12 Skills Every Manager Should Have

OCTOBER 3, 2014 / DIKRANISKENDERIAN / EDIT     Last Edit on Feb 3 of 2015

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people. Mahatma Gandhi

How does one become a Super Leader?  Super Leadership is actually a type of leadership coined by 2 authors. Superleadership is a style of leadership conceived by Charles Manz and Henry Sims, and based on individual self-leadership. It is broadly similar to situational leadership theory, rebranding concepts of employee development under a marketable banner. It is often described as “Leading others to lead themselves” (Wikipedia).

That’s a nice way to think of leadership, however as someone that has studied and practiced both management and leadership in the last 20 years, I can tell you that there is not one style that works with every crew. Different people have different styles, and each is suited to people’s needs. That said, no matter what your style of leadership (see 12 styles of Leadership chapter), there are 12 principles of Leadership that apply to everyone. There are some principles and behaviors all effective leaders share.

Here are the 12 S’s of Effective Leadership:

1) Serene. A leader has to be sure of himself or herself.  This goes beyond confidence. People often talk about Steve Jobs and his legendary sphere of influence he had not only on employees of Apple but also partners, investors, the consumers that bought all his products, as well as the media and press that covered Apple’s product launches. It was almost like a force field of susceptibility that worked on everyone that came close enough to experience his persuasive powers. A real leader is always calm. Think of a storm, and the elder is always at the eye of the storm. In a hurricane the damage is done all around the sphere of influence of the hurricane, and in the middle is called the “eye of the storm”. An effective leader is someone who is this “eye of the storm”.

In the restaurant business this pertains to so many situations that call for calm nerves. Food is burned and customers are upset, employees get in fights with one another, the line is too long and people are waiting too long for their food, the delivery is late, the money didn’t get tot he bank on time, and so many other potential situations occur in a restaurant operation on a daily basis. A restaurant owner and managers have to have the Serene disposition that’s always required of them to deal with such situations. Practice meditation, exercise, sleep well, and eat right. You will need to do all these things to always be in the right frame of mind so when these situations hit, you are well prepared.

Criticism must be used lightly. A gentle wind kindles, while a strong wind kills a fire. Chinese Proverb

Proverbs 14:30 A serene heart can add years to one’s life; but jealous passion rots the bones.

2) Skillful Competence is always required for effective leaders and managers in the restaurant field. If you are not adept at Word or Excel, you should not be doing the bookkeeping. If you are not a trained chef, you should not be doing the cooking. A real leader knows how to designate tasks and only does the things at which they are most skillful. If you feel you do not have the wisdom and training required to do the job, go to school. Do this before you open the restaurant. A leader is a professional that everyone else relies on. This is no time for fun and games. You really have to brush up on your skill, and you have to do so formally.

Those pathetic online classes are useless and don’t count toward training a real leader. Getting a book is often more beneficial, so I am not suggesting you go waste your time and purchase online classes and get worthless degree to put on your wall. I am suggesting take a bar-tending class. Take a class at Cordon Bleu or become a licensed chef. If you can’t do this hire those that have these qualifications. Go back to school and get a real bachelor’s degree in management or finance. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can “wing it”. If you open a restaurant and you’re not a skilled leader, it will fail, guaranteed. If you listen to this advice alone you already made your money back from buying this book. Proverbs 4:7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

3) Steadfastness Do you know what being steadfast means? Another way of saying this, the rude way, is to call someone stubborn (a mother “S” word). Can you guess how many times in my life I have been called stubborn? You guessed it, hundreds of times. Well let me tell you something, I would not have gotten a Bachelor’s degree in Management if I were not stubborn. Those restless studying sessions and sleepiness nights paid off, because I refused to quit. Why did I refuse to quit? I chose not to quit because I’m stubborn. Steadfastness helped me push through UCLA Extension’s difficult marketing program, something I finished during a very difficult and heart-wrenching divorce. It would have been so easy to give up and walk away. Trust me when I say not finishing a degree or certificate is a lot easier than finishing it.

Our mind and body always come up with a 1,000 excuses why we should not study late, work hard, or achieve more. You have to fight through the pain. If you don’t, you will never achieve more than most people. Don’t you want to be special? I do too, so doing all of what I had to in order to push through was so worth it. Guess what? The pain is over for me now, but the rewards remain. they are all framed on my wall, and while it doesn’t mean much to others to me it means the whole world. I kicked my own ass to get those degrees and certificates. And this should be your attitude too. Never give up! Don’t listen to the naysayers and haters. They are all fat, broke, and stupid. We don’t want to be like them, they want to be like us!

Wealth stays with us a little moment if at all: only our characters are steadfast, not our gold.  Euripides

4) Single-Minded Be relentless in your pursuit of excellence! Why did I put the word Single-minded? Most leaders only focus on one thing at a time. Their focus is like a laser. Think of how powerful a laser is. It can burn through anything. Now think of a ranged ray of light like the sun. Although it is powerful, it radiates us with light but it can’t burn through things like a laser can. As leaders we need to be like a laser. Focus on one thing at a time until you get it done, and then move on to the next thing. I used to be someone that used to multitask a lot. If you are like this, please realize this is the worst way to get ahead. Whoever invented multitasking was not a real leader.

It’s a great way to get things done in a sloppy manner, and usually not done at all. Have you noticed when you try to text and drive and listen to music you are not at your best? Or when someone is talking to you while texting on the phone at the same time? Not only is this rude but it’s very counter-productive. Be single-minded and get projects done with laser light focus, on time. You must be passionate, you must dedicate yourself, and you must be relentless in the pursuit of your goals. If you do, you will be successful.  Steve Garvey

5) Shaper People that help shape the future are often very creative, and leaders are creative by their nature. If you want to think like a shaper, you have to stop conforming to all these laws and stipulations that exist in everyone else’s mind. You have to break free from the “box” and become a truly creative person. Now I would like to think I am a very creative person. I know this because I am only truly happy when I am creating. Creating photography books, creating web sites, creating posters and banners, creating our menus and menu boards, creating ideas and concepts from nothing to actualization. I love the concept of creating and patenting our ideas and visions. The United States of America is the best country in the world to do this, with the highest and best forms of protection for creators in the entire globe. This is great because, as you may have realized, there are so many worthless copycats out there.

I have no respect for people who just copy others’ ideas instead of working hard to come up with their own. A real leader shapes the future. Think of Steve Jobs and how he shaped the future even after his death. Think of Ray Croc and how he shaped the future of the fast food industry with rigid systems and practices he mainstreamed at McDonald’s. Think of Henry Ford and what he did with the manufacturing and selling of automobiles. His legacy is being repeated now by billionaire Elon Musk and the car company Tesla. Why is Tesla so popular? Because it has given the middle finger to the oil and gas industry, manufactured amazing quality automobiles, and has been tremendously successful while at the same time helping the environment. Why have not one of the other various billion-dollar car companies of the world not been able to do this? The reason is that they don’t have effective leaders like him.

The day they get one, they will. A leader that shapes the future in the restaurant industry will be remembered long after they are gone. Is it possible to do what Howard Schultz did to coffee with Starbucks with Zankou Chicken in the fast-casual Mediterranean food market? Yes it is possible, but it is difficult. We hope and dream to shape such a future where there is a Zankou Chicken in every major city in America. Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. William Jennings Bryan

6) Sophisticated As a leader you have to be sophisticated. You must be shrewd and sound, smart and sensible, scholarly and sapient. How do you become all of these things? It’s a mix of street smart and school smart. While I believe the “street smart” is something God has put inside us and can’t be learned, people can always work hard and better themselves. You want to be a sophisticated leader in your field, whatever that may be. Even if you don’t work in restaurants, you have to dress nice and act the part if you are to be a trusted leader. My dad used to dress in jeans and T-shirts for many years. he would go in and out of the kitchens and would work hard, so he sweat a lot. He hated suits, but people always told him that if he was the CEO of Zankou Chicken, he had to wear a suit. Finally my dad relented, and after that he was always in a suit when he left the house. People treat you different when you act and look sophisticated. Try wearing a nice suit one day and go out to the malls and other areas around your town. See if people treat you different than when you’re in sloppy jeans and T-shirts. I promise you will see the difference. And once you do, you’ll be hooked on dressing nicer, as nice as possible.

We’re all human beings, but some of us are more sophisticated at covering our flaws. We’re just smart enough to lie to ourselves that everything is OK.  Mehmet Oz

7) Studious No leader is respected unless they work harder than everyone else. Wake up earlier, stay at work later, and let everyone see how much you love and push your brand. If you are not lifting a finger, why should everyone else around you work so hard? In the restaurant industry there is no room for excuses. Be studious in that no matter how many degrees you get or how much you know, you are always a student in your field. Being studious will always keep you curious and entertained. Resists the urge to “shut off”. Remember, we never know enough, and we usually know less than we think we know. Socrates, one of the greatest Greek philosophers of all time, said,” All I know is that I know nothing.” This is a good place to start, to assume you know nothing.

That’s what I had to do in order to write this book. I had to take writing classes for 3 years, read about 50 books total on the various subjects I am talking about, and rely on my 25 years owning and running restaurants with my family. You would think that would be enough to just write out of sheer memory and experience. You’d be wrong. I had to start from scratch for almost every chapter of this book, researching the facts and figures, quotes and studies. Such has to be our attitude in order to learn and grow. I asked the simple question, “If I was opening a restaurant for the first time what kinds of question would I ask? What would I like to know? Believe me none of the answers and materials came only from me but from hundreds of books and articles, hours and hours of research. I am thankful we were able to crate something we could look back and be proud of, because the ideas presented here are not just my own but from the best of the best. Leaders we had to find and interview to gain these invaluable pearls of wisdom.

People who make the choice to study, work hard or do whatever they endeavor is to give it the max on themselves to reach to the top level. And you have the people who get envy and jealous, yet are not willing to put that work in, and they want to get the same praise.  Evander Holyfield

The Chinese word for “crisis” is the character for danger in front of the character for opportunity. Often in life we are faced with immense danger as in many of the stories in this book, and after that comes great opportunity. It’s odd that often during the time of stress and in the midst of the worst and most difficult moments, we feel beat down and worthless. The wind is punched out of us and we don’t want to fight on or go on, and sometimes we feel as though nothing is worth this amount of stress. It’s in those moments when we should remember this old, Chinese proverb, that opportunity often follows even the worst of events. Often these events are life’s way of waking us up, showing us how lazy or asleep at the wheel we have been, and alerting us to change course. They are life’s alarm clocks or sirens, if you will. It takes a studious person to recognize these moments and actually make something positive out of them.

8) Sincere Integrity goes a long way when you are a leader. Regardless of what religion or philosophy you adhere to, the laws of integrity, sincerity, and truthfulness apply to every single person. Your followers will not respect you if you are not sincere. Imagine someone that perches a certain way, and after work he or she lives a lifestyle completely contrary to what they preach. Imagine a boss that’s barking orders at all the employees, then he rests inside the office and plays Angry Birds or World of Warcraft all day. You can’t be a respected leader if you simply bark orders and retreat to your man cave and play Minecraft. Life doesn’t work this way. You have to be in the filed, training and fighting with your team at all times. You have to help the crew understand and appreciate every nuance of the business. You have to have such truthfulness that people will trust your words, such that you need not repeat yourself or swear to anything.

“Let your yes be a yes and your no be a no” the Bible says. This means we must be so honest with people that they never have to second-guess us. This means making tough decisions sometimes; it also means that when we make mistakes we openly admit them. “Yes I did that! I ordered 32,000 menus and made a mistake. I didn’t double check enough, and now we have to spend another $7,000 on menus. Sorry, but this is what happened.” This is better than lying or laying blame on others. When we do this it forces us to make sure to double check, triple check not only our facts but all our decisions, from large to small. We will never make no mistakes, we are human beings. But we can make fewer mistakes.

If you lie, if you take the easy way out, the short cut, you can assume with 100% accuracy that you will not grow as a person. I have a funny story about lawyers we hired once. It was for a business case and I needed a business lawyer, so I hired a firm in Pasadena for something I needed. Now this was not a huge case, it was a case where I just needed some paperwork done with a certain amount of finesse. I figured these guys might help. After many phone calls and meetings, as most cases go, we were almost at a resolution and I had to go and discuss some terms of the agreement with their law firm, which shall remain nameless for the purposes of this book.

These guys started talking about strip clubs and hookers. I got a little bit uncomfortable, not because I have never heard of these topics, but because it felt like I was in a frat club and not a respectable law firm. These clowns were joking about spending $5,000 in one night on a strip club, and how they planned to do it again and up the ante, spending $10,000 for the following weekend. Then they laughed about how funny it was that their wives didn’t know what they were up to, or how they would flirt and the misdeeds they were so proud to talk about in front of me, someone they barely know. Let me take this opportunity to say, first of all, that I would never do business with a man that cheats on his wife or disrespects his wife. My reasoning for this is simple: If he cheats on his wife he has no respect for his wife, himself, or his family. If he has no respect or integrity for his own family, how much contempt would he have for me?

Thanks but no thanks. Secondly, any time I see evidence of this behavior I immediately cut off all relations and business with such people. I stopped working with a guy that fixes soda machines because he would brag about cheating on his wife. I’m sorry, but to me that is neither funny nor amusing. Have fun before your marriage but respect your family and your marriage. Do you think I ever did business with that law firm again? Of course not. They were disgraceful fools. The money they make does not impress me, and neither did their juvenile stories of strip clubs. It’s not hard to go to strip clubs. The point is having a high level of trust and integrity is very important, and if you want to get anywhere as a leader in the restaurant industry, make sure you start with these essential tools: trust, honestly, integrity, and most of all sincere in everything you do. Let people describe you with these words when you’re not around. Be a good listener so they come to you again and again.

Just as they need you today, you will need them tomorrow. One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. Bryant H. McGill

9) Stability Have you ever been around a person that’s changing moods faster than changing socks? They are super happy one minute and Debby Downer the next. Their highs are through the roof, and their lows are valleys deeper than the darkest holes. They are no fun to be around, and their direction is very confusing. They don’t know what they want or how to get there. As a leader it’s vital that your directions, mannerisms, and vocabulary are crystal clear. You can’t be moody. In front of employees, business associates, investors, and customers, you have to project a consistent and positive tone throughout the time they spend with you. When you go home you can cry and dance all you want, simultaneously if you so wish. But in the mornings and afternoons at work put on your best suit and your happiest face you possibly can. This is no times for fun and games, and no one wants to deal with a drama queen. Keep the drama at home. You are a compass and a guide for all the followers looking to you for constant advice and direction; show them stability and be a good example for them.

There are times I am happy. There are times I am sad. But I always try to separate emotion from the need to reach for something stronger, deeper. And then no matter the emotion, I can reach for a stability that helps me accomplish what is the goal.   Troy Polamalu

10) Self-Restraint Patience is a very valuable virtue. I didn’t know how important it is until I realized how long some of these projects take. It take 18 months to 2 years to open a new restaurant. It took me 6 months to create a revised catering menu, 2 years to create a totally updated and revised web site, and over a year on creating a regular menu revision. I was tempted so many times to end it quickly and just walk away. There were so many other projects waiting for me, and temptation comes at you every day in the way of distractions and amusements to get your mind off focus. A true leader needs a healthy amount of self-restraint in order to finish work on time and produce great results. Not only that but people will enjoy talking to you and spending time with you if you show patience. You can be more empathetic to their needs and concerns. This comes with practice for entrepreneurs, because often we like to brush people aside in the pursuit of our huge goals and dreams.

Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character; it requires moral rather than athletic or intellectual effort, and it imposes on both leader and follower alike the burdens of self-restraint. Lewis H. Lapham

11) Smart Well, of course a leader has to be smart. Wisdom and soundness comes with practice. You can’t learn everything about the restaurant business overnight. How much of this are we born with, and how much can we learn? There are dozens of books devoted to this topic. Is a leader born or is he or she made? Our genes determine how much of whom we are, but how much is determined by our surroundings and upbringing? It’s probably a mix of both. But one thing I know for sure and I can attest to, practice makes us better. If you take many pictures, you will become a better photographer. I have taken over 50,000 pictures in my lifetime. I have taken over 20,000 pictures with DSLR cameras. I have created over 7 photo books and journals, and it seems as though the next one is almost always better than the previous one. Why do you think that is? No matter what our God-given talents, if we work hard and practice on them we can always get better.  So if you are not that smart by way of general IQ scores, read more books. Listen to audiobooks in the car, take more classes, and practice more.

You will become better and better with time. Before this book the longest thing I ever wrote was a 47-page essay for a master’s degree class at Woodbury University in Burbank. It was our thesis for the degree in leadership. How much harder is it to write a 380-page book than a 47-page essay? It’s infinitely harder, because although I wrote that paper in about 3 weeks of non-stop work, the book took over 4 years. But I did not want to think of it this way. I just thought of it as small hills to climb versus this huge, insurmountable mountain. I wrote for class after class, and I listened to classmates critique my material. Sometimes it was not easy, after all this was my art, and to hear other people put it down hurts a little bit. But unless you open yourself up to criticism and wisdom from others who have already been there, you can never get the help you need to become better. So being smart is not something that someone either has or does not have. It’s a life principle and you can grow by design, into a better and smarter person by struggling more, reading more, and spending more time doing things that matter.  There are no excuses to not take more classes or read more books. Don’t tell me that they are expensive and you can’t afford it. You can’t afford not to buy them. And don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

Be afraid of not making mistakes, because this means you’re not trying. Make more mistakes and in a faster routine, such that you learn and grow and expand as fast as possible, and hopefully your earnings will soon follow. A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. John C. Maxwell

12) Sixth Sense There is a lot of talk today about intuition, or what many people call “second sight” capabilities of some people. How did Steve Jobs predict how successful iPhones and iPods would be? The truth is he didn’t. Just like the rest of us, he made many mistakes; but at least he tried. He looked at the facts and made the best guess he could into where the future was going. He gave people what “they didn’t know they wanted”. We must be the same way. Look at the food industry now. What kind of shape is it in? What is the one niche that no one has grabbed? What is a style or type of restaurant that has not been tried, but if it were tried in the right location would be a huge success? This takes a tremendous amount of knowledge and intuition. Not everyone is gifted with the “sixth sense”, a spiritual eye that sees into the future. Some of us have this talent, and if we do we must be sure to use it for the good and not to harm others. As a leader, look at the restaurant space and make a calculated decision to see where it’s going. This is how you wild determine what kind of restaurant to open. I wish you much luck and success. Just don’t open a chicken restaurant across the street from us.

Your time is limited; so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Find the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  Steve Jobs

Enlightened leadership is spiritual if we understand spirituality not as some kind of religious dogma or ideology but as the domain of awareness where we experience values like truth, goodness, beauty, love and compassion, and also intuition, creativity, insight and focused attention.  Deepak Chopra

The more you trust your intuition, the more empowered you become, the stronger you become, and the happier you become.  Gisele Bundchen

12.5 Street Smart The last thing I want to add here is “street smarts”. This is different than the previously mentioned characteristics. It’s not the same as wisdom, which is gained from making the right decisions. It’s not gained from knowledge, which is gained from doing many hours of extensive research and homework.

Street Smarts are something else entirely. It may indeed be one of those rare, expensive gifts God rarely gives out. People like 50 Cent have it, as well as people like Richard Branson of Virgin. These people didn’t get much formal education, yet they often make millions, sometimes billions of dollars. They are immensely successful, and often more successful than they counterparts that did go to all the Ivy League schools and did everything “by the book”. So how can we be like these people if you have to be born with this skill? We can spend time with them and learn from them. So my advice is go to school. Do all the homework, read all the books, attend all the seminars, and listen to all the audiobooks in your car. But besides all this also have someone in your circle of friends and advisers many people consider to be “street smart”. Learn from these people, how they act, their intuition and judgment. See how they treat people when they walk into a room, and how people treat them. Learn from them because they are that rare gift that not everyone is blessed to be around.

There’s book smart, there is street smart, there’s relationship smart, there’s too many different kinds of smarts to know all of them. Everybody doesn’t know every kind of smart. There’s money smart, there’s movie smart, there’s computer smart. There are just too many different kinds of smarts for people to know all the smarts. J. B. Smoove

BONUS S: Superiority There are three marks  of a superior person: being virtuous, he is free from anxiety; being wise, he is free from perplexity; being brave , he is free from fear. Chinese Proverb

Sources 1) Best-Loved Chinese Proverbs by Theodora Lau and Kenneth and Laura Lau

Complying with ADA—Americans with Disabilities Act

Handicapped Parking sign

The letter came along with all the other correspondence at our west LA store. But it looked oversized, a bit heavy, and in a legal envelope. On the cover was the name and address of another greedy law firm. I opened it with great distress, knowing the contents were in no way the winning numbers of a lottery ticket or an invitation to a party. The letter was basically a legal version of blackmail, mentioning an individual I will not name here that was a known person in the community that would go from store to store, not even eating at any restaurant or convenient store but rather staking out these types of businesses like a demented version of a handicapped ninja.

The individual was “handicapped” in the sense that he was an “American with Disabilities”. He would come in and without saying a word, without so much as taking a bite, would proceed to the bathrooms and take measurements. He would also take measurements of the doors with an instrument called a door pressure gauge and see how many pounds the pressure was. He would write small notes in his book and proceed to leave. Highway robbery? Yes but in a new, cold-hearted, annoying and unethical yet completely legal way.

These cowardly weasels come not to eat at our fine dining establishments, but to in order to sue. The letter wanted $5,000 for each of the 4 violations he found. One for the heavy door, one for another entrance, one for the uncovered pipe beneath the sink (the argument is they can burn their knees on wheelchairs if there is no insulation), and one for a hallway that was too close between the doors. That’s $20,000 total, by the way, in case you’re not keeping count. Highway robbery indeed. The unintended consequences of a badly worded law that passed Congress without much oversight or consideration into how the law might be abused. Nowadays, the ADA is a great way for Americans with disabilities, often soldiers or others disabled by injuries from accidents, to make money without actually having to work. Well, I guess in their mind what they do is “work”, if visiting businesses and suing them without even actually intending on eating there can be called work. People that rob banks and carjack people consider what they do work as well. This, of course, is not to say that most of our injured soldiers, who are heroes in my book, usually behave. Most of them served with honor and great distinction, and many often recuperate and go on to become highly successful business people. These are the cowards with no names, who go around doing this. Who they are and what their past is I do not know, but I know their future is bleak. Anyone that goes around suing people as a job who is actually disabled gives disabled vets and other disabled Americans a bad name. They should be ashamed of themselves.

We negotiated two of the violations away with our lawyer, which actually weren’t “real” violations. What these people do with their greedy lawyers is they often overestimate which of the laws restaurants or other establishments have violated. It’s kind of like throwing darts in the dark. They want to see what will stick. We eventually had to settle out of court with 2 of the violations at the “reduced” price of $5,000. We tried to get it done through insurance but at the time, our insurance did not cover violations of the ADA act. One 7-11 owner I spoke to in Glendale told me they head to pay $10,000 to create a ramp because of one lawsuit, which is fine by me, except he had to pay the guy’s lawyer and the guy himself thousands more just to go away. If you are reading this and you’re a lawyer, do you think this is fair for business owners? If so I fear for our future.

We had to pay this highway robber out of pocket. Imagine having to pay someone $5,000 just to go away?! This is what restaurants and other businesses have to deal with repeatedly unless Congress closes this terrible loophole that allows these seedy individuals, armed with rulers and pressure measuring instruments, to come and legally rob businesses that work so hard to keep their doors open. Life is difficult enough as it is without these pests. The law had good intentions: to make life easier for injured people and others with disabilities, to give them mobility and make it easier to work at their job. That is good and noble; however what happened is you now have a wild-west style free-for-all when these people can just go store to store, suing people at will. Few of us have the resources or time to countersue these people for the unethical way in which they are doing this, and to sue these shady lawyers and strio them of their license to practice law; and trust me if I had unlimited resources that is exactly what I would do. Our bills are hard enough as it is.

Every restaurant owner pays bills. Water, power, waste disposal all cost money. There’s no escape from such expenses if a restaurant is to survive, let alone thrive.

Now imagine if you had to pay $300 or $400 an hour, totaling perhaps several thousand dollars every month, in lawyers’ fees to protect yourself from lawsuits by people who may never have been to your restaurant or even tasted its food. What these litigants mostly want is to show that you violated the American Disabilities Act by ruining their hypothetical visit to your restaurant. These are things most entrepreneurs often font think about. After all, you dream of opening your place and serving your customers, not situations like this.

The law maybe an ass, as Charles Dickens’s protagonist in Oliver Twist famously remarked, but most of us have to bow before it or face the consequences of doing otherwise. For restaurateurs who have been sued for allegedly violating the American Disabilities Act, the financial burden of a court battle can be a huge liability.

Which is why it’s imperative for every budding restaurateur to understand what the American Disabilities Act is. ADA, as the act if often referred to in short, is a wide-ranging civil rights law that provides protections similar to those enshrined in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Enacted into law in 1990, ADA ensureS that people with disabilities do not face discrimination in public places, including restaurants.

Let’s say your restaurant has two restrooms, but there are no signs on their doors clearly marking which of the rooms is for men and which for women. You should know that you can be sued by any customer for your failure to clearly indicate which of the two major genders in our 21st-centure world—male and female—are permitted access to the restrooms.

Although the gender-based signage may be behind the times—what about the thousands of people classified as transgender, for example—it needs to be clear: Any ambiguous names, including in foreign languages, or cute symbols or illustrations, could still spell legal trouble. (That’s right—even “His” and “Hers” or “Sir” and “Madam” markers, whether in English or French, are rife for being legally challenged.)

While proper signage is important—and easy to implement—it’s likely to be the least of a restaurant owner’s headaches. A far more cumbersome issue is ADA-compliant access to people in wheelchairs—not just to restrooms but to parking lots and the restaurant floor.

Wheelchair access in parking lots—and to the restaurant via ramps—are two key problems restaurant owners ought to be vigilant about, unless they don’t mind undergoing the enormous stress that Fine Line & Trim, a Rancho Cordova-based upholstery business in California, has reportedly experienced.

In August 2013, Victor Valdivia, the owner of Fine Line & Trim, spotted two young women taking photographs of his upholstery business and measuring its parking spaces. A few weeks later, Valdivia was served with a lawsuit by Scott Johnson, a 51-year-old quadriplegic who alleged that Valdivia violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because the parking spaces at his business were not accessible by people with disabilities.

Never mind that Johnson would have no sensible reason to visit Valdivia’s store because the upholsterer sold nothing over the counter. News reports quote Valdivia as saying that Johnson wanted $20,000 to settle the lawsuit. “I feel it is legal extortion,” said the upholsterer, who claimed he was spending $2,000 a month on lawyers to defend himself against Johnson’s lawsuit.

What’s more, since ADA became law in 1990, Johnson has reportedly filed ADA lawsuits against more than 2,200 businesses. (In an interesting twist, three women who formerly worked to Johnson alleged in a court in Sacramento that he rarely went to businesses. Instead, he ordered his employees to drive around the establishments and take photos and measurements that fell short of ADA compliance.

While it’s debatable whether Johnson’s actions amount to legal extortion or if they force businesses to comply with the ADA law, this much seems clear: Johnson’s alleged attempts to settle with Valdivia are part of a pattern that prompted California Governor Jerry Brown to sign a 2013 state law aimed at curtailing frivolous lawsuits based on ADA. The law, Senate Bill 1186, also makes it illegal to threaten to sue business owners if they fail to settle for a certain amount of money.


The Americans with Disabilities Act was the brainchild of Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Indiana who was the major sponsor of Senate Bill 1186 in Congress. Harkin is said to have delivered his introductory speech in the Senate in sign language. He did so, he said, to enable his brother, who was how hard of hearing, to understand what he was saying.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act is clearly a well-intentioned law, it’s also a symbol of much that is wrong with American jurisprudence. Critics of ADA rightly see the act as a legal right devoid of responsibility and human judgment.

To understand this criticism, let us go to New York City in 1991, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. (History may or may not have come to an end in the decade of the 90s, but a lot of sacred legal cows were certainly running amok on the American landscape.) It was a time when Rudy Giuliani had yet to become mayor of New York. Large parts of the city were still severely blighted, and finding a public restroom wasn’t easy, not least because most toilets in the New York subway had been closed down because of vandalism and crime. With museums out of bounds to who didn’t pay admission and restaurants restricted to patrons, the city’s streets were the only places where people could urinate easily.

And so New York’s public reacted with great enthusiasm when a philanthropic organization known as the Kaplan Fund proposed to finance six coin-operated sidewalk toilet kiosks in various parts of the city. The toilet were to be imported from Paris, whose municipal authorities provide them for residents and tourists. Over the years, Parisians had perfected the use of the toilets, which were cleaned with a shower of water and disinfectant after every use. The doors to the toilets opened automatically every 15 minutes—to prevent people from spending the night inside. And because the toilets were only five feet in diameter, they fit nicely in New York’s typically crowded sidewalks.

Best of all, the toilets were supposed to cost the budget-strapped city nothing: Advertising panels on the outside would have paid for the freight. City Hall was all set to test the toilets over a six-month period—and that’s when the plans ran into a glitch: The toilets weren’t big enough for wheelchairs to fit inside. That made them illegal because New York’s antidiscrimination law forbids the withholding or denying of any access to public accommodation to the disabled.

The Mayor’s Office of the Disabled called the toilet kiosk program “discrimination in its purest form.” When the city’s head lawyer, a champion of liberal causes stretching back three decades, proposed a legislative amendment for the test, a lobbyist for the disabled accused him of “conspiring to violate the law”—seemingly unaware that amending the law through the democratic process amounted to neither a conspiracy nor a violation. When someone at a public forum asked the potential number of wheelchair-borne users compared to others who might benefit from the toilets, the questioner was booed for being politically incorrect. For the disabled and their advocates, this was an issue of rights—not civic reasonableness.

Just as ADA compliance issues wrecked New York City’s plans for sidewalk toilets, ADA-compliant restrooms are the big bugaboo for restaurant owners. Besides proper signage, the width and height of the doors in the restrooms must be of a certain measurement. Further, the weight of doors should be such that disabled patrons can open it without being required to apply inordinate pressure. (Anything more than eight pounds of pressure is grounds for a lawsuit.)

ADA compliance isn’t just limited to customers—it also extends to employees and job applicants. According to the latest regulations, disabilities covered under ADA include deafness (“hearing impaired”), blindness (“visually impaired”), intellectual disability, partial or complete loss of limbs, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depression, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and mobility impairments requiring wheelchair use.

A host of other conditions also qualify for ADA protection as long as victims of alleged discrimination can prove that a public accommodation restricted certain life activities in some way. These life activities are broadly defined as seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, social interactions, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.

The umbrella for major life activities covered by ADA is so large that it also includes key bodily functions, such as the immune system, normal cell growth, the digestive system, bowels, bladder, neurology, blood circulation, respiration, endocrine functions and reproductive functions. Employees are deemed disabled even during periods of remission. And because it’s possible to discriminate against workers well after the effects of their disabilities have disappeared, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against anyone who has had a past impairment. This includes former cancer patients, rehabilitated drug addicts, recovering alcoholics, and even those who have suffered a misdiagnosis or have been wrongly classified as suffering from a condition.

Top 10 ADA Access Violations

  • Signs: Outdated or incorrect signage.
  • Parking: Slope too steep or wrong dimensions.
  • Access Routes: Wrong signs, steep slopes or other hazards.
  • Curb Ramps: Steep slopes.
  • Pedestrian ramps: No handrails, landings not level, or no ramp.
  • Bathrooms: Too small or fixtures out of reach.
  • Stairs: No hazard striping or handrails, rails at wrong height, or uneven steps.
  • Seating: No access for people with disabilities.
  • Doorways: Clearance issues or improper door handles.
  • Exits: No exit or no signs showing exits.

It’s worth noting that in California, as in most other states, the Americans with Disabilities Act has a hefty compliance manual regarding “architectural barrier removal.” The manual is based on the following four codes and two guidelines:

  • California Building Code
  • Uniform Building Code
  • ADA Accessibility Guidelines
  • Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines
  • California Plumbing Code
  • California Electric Code

Here are some of the key laws that may apply to restaurants:


  • At every primary public entrance and at every major junction along or leading to an accessible route of travel, there shall be a sign displaying the International Symbol of Accessibility for the handicapped.
  • These signs shall indicate the direction to accessible building entrances and facilities.

Curb Ramps

  • The slope of curb ramps shall not exceed 1 unit vertical to 12 units horizontal (8.33% slope).
  • Transitions from ramps to walks, gutters, or streets shall be flush and free of abrupt changes, except that curb ramps shall have a detectable warning that extends the full width and depth of the curb ramp inside the grooved border when the ramp slope is less than 1 unit vertical to 15 units horizontal (6.7% slope). Further, detectable warnings shall consist of raised truncated domes with a diameter of nominal 0.9-inch (22.9 mm) at the base tapering to 0.45-inch (11.4mm) at the top, a height of nominal 0.2 (5.1mm) and a center-to-center spacing of nominal 2.35 inches (59.7mm). The detectable warning shall contrast visually with adjoining surfaces, either light-on-dark or dark-on-light. The material used to provide contrast shall be an integral part of the walking surface. The domes may be constructed in a variety of methods, including cast in place or stamped, or may be part of a prefabricated surface treatment.
  • Curb ramps shall be located or protected to prevent their obstruction by parked cars.
  • The slope of a fanned or flared sides of curb ramps shall not exceed 1 unit vertical to 8 units horizontal (12.5% slope).
  • If a curb ramp is located where pedestrians must walk across the ramp, then it shall have flared sides, the maximum slope of the flare being 1 unit vertical in 10 units horizontal (10% slope).
  • Curb ramps shall be located or protected to prevent their obstruction by parked cars.
  • Built-up curb ramps shall be located so that they do not project into vehicular traffic lanes.

Accessible Parking

  • Accessible parking spaces shall be located on the shortest possible accessible route to travel to an accessible building entrance.
  • In facilities with multiple accessible building entrances with adjacent parking, accessible parking spaces shall be dispersed and located near the accessible entrances.

Parking Space Size

  • Parking spaces for disabled persons shall be 14 feet (4267mm) wide and outlined to provide a 9-foot (2743mm) parking area and a 5-foot (1524-mm) loading and unloading access aisle on the passenger side of the vehicle.
  • When more than one space is provided in lieu of providing a 14-foot wide (4267mm) space for each parking space, two spaces can be provided with a 23-foot-wide (7010mm) area lined to provide a 9-foot (2743mm) parking area on each side of a 5-foot (1524mm) loading and unloading access aisle in the center.
  • The minimum length of each parking space shall be 18 feet (5486mm).

Van Space(s)

  • One in every eight accessible spaces, but not less than one, shall be served by an access aisle 96 inches (2438mm) wide minimum and shall be designated van accessible.

Slope of Parking Spaces

  • Surface slopes of accessible parking spaces shall be the minimum possible and shall not exceed ¼-inch (6.4mm) per foot (2.083% gradient) in any direction.


  • Every parking space required under ADA shall be identified by a sign, centered between 36 inches and 60 inches (914mm and 1524mm) above the parking surface, as the head of the parking space.
  • This sign shall include the International Symbol of Accessibility and state “RESERVED” or equivalent language.

Arrangement of Parking Spaces

  • In each parking area, a bumper or curb shall be provided and located to prevent encroachment of cars over the required width of walkways.
  • The space shall be so located that persons with disabilities are not compelled to wheel or walk behind parked cars other than their own.
  • Pedestrian ways which are accessible to people with disabilities shall be provided from each such parking space to related facilities, including curb cuts or ramps as needed.
  • Ramps shall not encroach into any parking space.

Facility Accessibility: Water Closets

  • Water closets in bathrooms required to be accessible shall conform to the provisions of the California Plumbing Code—CPC—1502.0.
  • The water closet shall be located in a space minimum of 36 inches (914mm) in clear width, with 48 inches (1219mm) minimum clear space provided in front of the water closet.
  • This space may include maneuverable space under a lavatory, if provided, arranged so as not to impede access.
  • Lavatories adjacent to a wall shall be mounted with a minimum distance of 18 inches (457mm) to the center line of the fixture.
  • All accessible lavatories shall be mounted with the rim or counter surface no higher than 34 inches (864mm) above the finish floor and with a clearance of at least 29 inches (737mm) from the floor to the bottom of the apron with knee clearance under the front lip extending a minimum of 30 inches (762mm) in width, with 8 inches (203mm) minimum depth at the top.
  • The clearance shall be the same width and shall be a minimum of 9 inches (229mm) high from the floor and a minimum of 17 inches (432mm) deep from the front of the lavatory.
  • Hot water and drain pipes accessible under lavatories shall be insulated or otherwise covered.
  • There shall be no sharp or abrasive surfaces under the lavatories.
  • Faucet controls and operating mechanisms shall be operable with one hand and shall not require tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist.
  • The force required to activate controls shall be no greater than 5 pounds (22.2 N).
  • Lever-operated, push-type and electronically controlled mechanisms are examples of acceptable designs.
  • Self-closing valves are allowed if the faucet remains open for at least 10 seconds.
  • The minimum height of water closet seats shall be 15 inches (381mm) above the floor.
  • The height of accessible water closets shall be a minimum of 17 inches (432mm) and a maximum of 19 inches (483mm) measured to the top of a maximum 2-inch (51mm) high toilet seat, except that 3-inch (76mm) seats shall be permitted only in alterations where the existing fixture is less than 15 inches (381mm) high.
  • Controls shall be operable with one hand, and shall not require tight grasping, pinching or twisting.
  • Controls for the flush valves shall be mounted on the wide side of toilet areas, no more than 44 inches (1118mm) above the floor.
  • The force required to activate controls shall be no greater than 5 pounds.

Facility Accessibility: Bathing and Toilet Facilities 

  • Bathroom entrance doorways shall have an 18-inch (457mm) clear space to the side of the strike edge of the door on the swing side of the door.
  • Sufficient maneuvering space shall be provided for a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid to enter and close the door, use the fixtures, reopen the door and exit.
  • Doors may swing into the clear space at any fixture if the maneuvering space is provided.
  • Maneuvering spaces may include any knee space or toe space available below bathroom fixtures.
  • Where the door swings into the bathroom, there shall be a clear space (approximately 30 inches by 48 inches/762mm by 1219mm) within the room to position a wheelchair or other mobility aid clear of the path of the door as it is closed and to permit use of fixtures.


  • Regardless of the occupant load served, exit doors shall be capable of opening from the inside without the use of a key or any special knowledge or effort.
  • Every required exit doorway shall be of a size as to permit the installation of a door not less than 36 inches (914mm) in width and not less than 80 inches (2032mm) in height.
  • When installed in exit doorways, exit doors shall be capable of opening at least 90 degrees and shall be so mounted that the clear width of the exitway is not less than 32 inches (813mm).
  • For hinged doors, the opening width shall be measured with the door positioned at an angle of 90 degrees from its closed position.
  • Where a pair of doors is utilized, at least one of the doors shall provide a clear, unobstructed opening width of 32 inches (813mm), with the leaf positioned at an angle of 90 degrees from its closed position.
  • When an automatic door operator is utilized to operate a pair of doors, at least one of the doors shall provide a clear, unobstructed opening width of 32 inches (813mm), with the door positioned at an angle of 90 degrees from its closed position.

Effort to Operate Doors

  • The maximum effort to operate doors shall not exceed 8-1/2 pounds (38 N) for exterior doors and 5 pounds (22 N) for interior doors, such pull or push effort being applied at right angles to hinged doors and at the center plane of sliding or folding doors.
  • Compensating devices or automatic door operators may be utilized to meet the above standards.
  • Where fire doors are required, the maximum effort to operate the door may be increased to the minimum allowable by the appropriate administrative authority, not to exceed 15 pounds (66.72 N).
  • Hand-activated door opening hardware shall be centered between 30 inches (762mm) and 44 inches (1118mm) above the floor.
  • Latching and locking doors that are hand-activated and which are in a path of travel shall be operable with a single effort by lever-type hardware, panic bars, push-pull activating bars, or other hardware designed to provide passage without requiring the ability to grasp the opening hardware.
  • Locked exit doors shall operate as above in egress direction.
  • The bottom 10 inches (254mm) of all doors except automatic and sliding doors shall have a smooth, uninterrupted surface to allow the door to be opened by a wheelchair footrest without creating a trap or hazardous condition.
  • When narrow frame doors are used, a 10-inch-high (254mm) smooth panel shall be installed on the push side of the door, which will allow the door to be opened by a wheelchair footrest without creating a trap or hazardous condition.

The best advice we can give restaurant and bar owners is be very careful. If you are reading this book and are about to open a new restaurant, make sure your contractor knows this stuff. Ask him or her about these requirements and how up to date they are on how the build-out should be. If they build it wrong, you are liable as the business owner not them. The onus is on us to make sure we do the build-out correctly, from the beginning. So measure yourself the access points, door pressure, and find out how many handicap spots are required in your city if you are building the entire lot. You may also need to create empty space in the parking lot in and around the handicap spaces in addition to the city’s minimum handicap allotment. Measure your doors by purchasing a door pressure gauge from Amazon. They aren’t cheap, but they are cheaper than a potential lawsuit from these bloodsucking money-hungry lawyers and their blackmailing clients.


  • Americans with Disabilities Act Architectural Barrier Removal and Compliance Manual: A Simplified Approach to Accessibility, by James E. Jordan
  • Your Rights in the Workplace: An Employees Guide to Fair Treatment, by Barbara Kate Repa
  • The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America, by Philip K. Howard
  • News10/KXTV