My family and I moved into our current home in Willoughby, Ohio back in 2001.  Right down the road from where we live is a little diner called JT’s Diner, which is a great little place. Sadly, I drove by this diner for many years and never stopped in for a meal. The crazy part is that it IS always packed, which is obviously a sign that it’s a great restaurant.

However, last year I finally stopped in for breakfast with two friends after competing in a mini-triathlon. We were starving and figured we could get a big breakfast quickly.

Within minutes of walking in, the owner was making fun of us. Unfortunately, I can’t share what she said, but it was pretty funny. Turns out, she teases all of the customers and they absolutely love it. We definitely enjoyed her and the diner. The t-shirts they wear at JT’s Diner read as follows:

“Eat and Get Out Dork”

I sneak in there every few weeks for a big omelet and coffee. Every time I do, I think about what the owner has created and believe it might be the ultimate lifestyle business. Here’s why…

1. Limited hours: The diner is only open from 7 am to 2pm. They only serve breakfast and lunch. I’m sure she could fill the place everyday for dinner, because of her loyal following. However, she has purposefully passed on this opportunity to increase revenue.

2. Limited menu: Her breakfast menu only offers 9 items. Obviously, you can special order various items and customize your breakfast. This limited menu has probably been designed for speed and effectiveness. After ordering, your meal is served very quickly. The tables turn over many times during peak hours. PLUS, it’s probably easier to find a cook because they don’t serve 88 different meals.

3. Limited size: JT’s Diner only has 12 tables and these tables are always full. There is often a waiting line out the door on weekend mornings. Most entrepreneurs would probably look for a larger space so they could serve more customers. The small size offers many benefits for the business. The biggest benefit is that they can run the business with just 2 people. A cook and a waiter/waitress. In fact, the owner typically is the only waitress and she covers the entire diner with ease. She isn’t dependent on 12 different employees who call in sick, quit and give poor service. More importantly, she has low overhead. She doesn’t have to pay a mortgage or rent on a large building. She doesn’t have astronomical heating and air conditioning bills or other expenses to run the business.

4. Limited marketing: As noted above, I have lived very close to this diner for a decade and I don’t ever remember seeing ONE advertisement for the diner. The reason why is because she doesn’t have to advertise. It’s such a cool, fun place that it’s always packed with customers. This is apparent by all of the giraffes displayed throughout the diner. The owner loves giraffes and her customers have brought her dozens of giraffe gifts over the years. Assuming you have a sense a humor when you first visit JT’s Diner, you’ll definitely go back.

Did you notice the word “limited” in each item listed above? Less really is more.

As I was building my real estate company, my goal was always more. More leads, more agents, more sales, all with the goal of more commissions. Always wanting more led to…

…more work
…more employees & employee related problems (my former personal assistant is in jail for stealing from one of my businesses)
…more stress
…more overhead
…more office space
…more risk

The owner of JT’s Diner could move to a larger space, or she could extend her hours to offer dinner and late night service. These changes may well bring additional revenue. However, they will also bring additional risk, work and stress.

She has designed a business that suits her lifestyle. She works until 2pm and can spend the rest of the day as she wishes. If she wants to take time off, she only needs one waiter/waitress to cover all 12 tables. When she does work, she has a blast and enjoys every minute. This is evident by her smile, laugh and attitude. I have no idea, but I’ll have to assume that the money she earns through her business also serves her lifestyle. This is because she has intentionally decided to not chase various “opportunities” to increase the revenue.

All of this leads to one very important question:

Are you designing your business for “more,” or are you designing your business around how you want to live your life?

How do you really want to live your life? How many hours a week do you want to work? What days and hours do you want to work? What type of client do you truly enjoy working with? Do you enjoy your work? Start making changes today that bring you closer to a business that suits how you want to live your life.

Oh and if it’s not 100% apparent, I highly recommend JT’s Diner. If you’re ever up in Cleveland, stop in and grab breakfast and be prepared to be teased! You can check out their website at:


    1 Response to "JT’s Diner – Designing a “Lifestyle” Business"

    • Barbara

      Great food!! However, if you want a quiet, respectful atmosphere in which to dine … JTs falls WAY short. I understand that the waitress/co-owner is a good person, but her antics are way over the top and out of bounds. I felt verbally assaulted, and left feel raw and aggravated. Not the way I had hoped to have breakfast. The meals are great, but the “culture” of the place needs an over-haul!!

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