How a Piece of Cheesecake Could Help You Make Better Decisions

Once when I was an assistant manager at an Applebee’s restaurant in Florida, our GM Ken taught me a lesson that has helped me throughout my career. Here is the story:

Our goal for food cost was 30 percent, which if we achieved would add to our bonus. The problem was that at that moment, we were above 30 percent. In the managers’ meeting, Ken could have harped on us that we needed to watch every portion, avoid cooking mistakes, and make sure things were not given away for free by the staff, but he didn’t.

What Ken did do was right before the night shift, when things in the restaurant were just getting ramped up, he opened the dessert cooler and yelled, “We’re missing a cheesecake. How can we be missing a cheesecake already?”

Well, the line cooks were not the only ones that were confused, so was I. This seemed out of character for Ken and I was not sure what was going on. How did Ken know there was a cheesecake missing?

When business slowed down, I asked Ken how he knew a cheesecake was missing? His response was pure gold:

“I didn’t,” he said, “but the cooks didn’t know that. By making a scene, they thought that I knew how many cheesecakes were in there and if I knew how many cheesecakes were in there, I probably knew how much of every other food we had on hand. Thus, they were not going to give away or waste food.”

Before the end of the month, our food costs magically corrected below 30 percent.

The moral of the story, people, including you, will respond to what they perceive to be true, not necessarily what is true. So, check to make sure your perceptions are true before deciding because your perception is not always reality.


David Justus is an author, speaker, and Guinness World Record Holder. As the founder of Northcoast University, LLC and The Self-Coaching Vault, he shares his insights as a life and business coach to help people achieve greater success and more happiness.

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