Guest contributer: Joe Tortorice Jr., Founder of Jason's Deli
I am often reminded of the words of our Creator, as spoken through the biblical passage of John 15:16. “You did not choose me. Rather, I chose you to go out and bear fruit. Fruit that will last.”
Over the past forty years, I have discovered that my definition of “bearing fruit” has grown in depth and breadth to more fully reflect the meaning of life.
When we were first presented the opportunity to open a deli by Ben Rogers in the Gateway Shopping Center, we looked upon it as a way of subsidizing our income. I was currently working for the State of Texas as a Business Officer. State salaries were barely enough to make ends meet. My wife Shelley was a stay at home mother. So, the bottom line was, we were in business to make money.
We had a number of servant leaders helping us in the early days. My father co-signed my note, my mother was our cashier, my grandparents prepped the food, and my wife was the General Manager. I kept my day job and worked nights and weekends at the deli. Without their love, support and extremely “family friendly” hourly wages, we may not have gotten here today!
We studied and learned. We tested food in our kitchen at home. We asked many questions. And, we listened. Jason’s Deli was not a business, but a lifestyle. We were never off. Rather, we were in relentless pursuit of building a sustainable brand. My partners and I would joke that we didn’t even know the color of our houses because we left before the sun came up and returned home after the sun set.
As the years went by, and more people came into the company, it became very apparent that the true vision of a business is to serve others – customers, employees, franchisees, shareholders and communities. Servant Leadership, an ancient concept introduced to me by David Glass, is the essence of “bearing fruit that will last.” If we do that well, then we will achieve financial security to impact more lives.
We have been driven by the desire to “Improve the lives of others through the nourishment of the Body, Mind, Heart and Spirit.” We have tried to nourish bodies by leading the industry in providing less processed, real food, offering a Salad Bar loaded with freshly cut, high quality vegetables with select organics and handmade recipes - all for an extremely fair price. We have partnered with MD Anderson to create a line of offerings that meet very stringent health guidelines. We have also raised money to fund 5 pilot cancer prevention programs through the Prevention Services and Health Sciences Division. We sponsor health events throughout the country to raise awareness and money to fight diseases. We sit on the Southern Obesity Summit Board of Directors. We have a Leadership Institute designed to teach our people about our Core Values and life lessons. Finally, we pray before meeting. Why? Because we have a deeply held belief in G-d, and that a deep spiritual connection with each other improves the lives of everyone we serve: stakeholders, customers, families and employees.
Today, we are 262 delis in 28 states and employ over 11,000 caring people. We’ve been honored by our peers in the business community and restaurant industry. We rank in the top 5 Fast Casual Concepts in the United States. And most importantly, our people receive wonderful accolades on a daily basis for their spirit of kindness!