Chris Newcomb | Crain's Indianapolis

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chris Newcomb


Based in Jackson, Miss., Newk’s Eatery operates and franchises more than 115 locations in 15 states including new locations in Greenwood, Ind.; Arvada, Colo., and Lone Tree, Colo. The fast casual restaurants offer a culinary-driven menu prepared in Newk's open kitchens. Founded in 2004, Newk's is focused on community. One of its initiatives, Newk’s Cares, is an ongoing program that has raised more than $750,000 for ovarian cancer research and awareness.

The Mistake:

Customers were getting a bad taste because we couldn’t deliver product on time.

Back in the early days when we first started in 1993, we didn’t have the technology we have today. There was a college market and we wanted to try and capture some of that late night business. So we opened a separate delivery service for McAlister’s that was open from noon until midnight.

We thought we’d be the next Domino’s in sandwich delivery. But we crashed and burned. We figured out real quick that it wasn’t going to work. It stretched our team way too far. We had plenty of demand but we were overwhelmed. Plus, we didn’t understand well enough the delivery process part.

We’d send people out with too many orders and there’d be a 40-to-50 minute delivery time and then our sandwiches wouldn’t be as good anymore. We’d have managers working both our dine-in location and the delivery location. It was tough because we’d have all eight telephones lighting up with the food piling up and even delivery drivers taking phone orders.

Ultimately we decided it was affecting our dine-in business too much and to retreat from it. It was chaos. So we decided we were going to shut it down and do what we do best.

We learned you simply can’t be everything to everybody.

The Lesson:

Our takeaway from that was to focus on what you’re good at. We now just focus on what’s inside our four walls. Now, before we take on any initiative, we ask ourselves, 'Who would be involved?' and 'Do we have the bandwidth to handle it?' 

In leadership meetings we discuss how much we can take on. If we decide that it could be too much to handle, we don’t do it.

From that earlier experience, we learned you simply can’t be everything to everybody. Nowadays, we use third-party delivery companies, which is still in its infancy but we’re working with a couple that can integrate with our point of sales. I wouldn’t have tried to do it ourselves if I’d known then what I know now.


Follow Newk’s Eatery on Twitter at @Newks.

Pictured is Chris Newcomb. | Photo courtesy of Newk’s Eatery.