One of the first pieces of advice I received last year was: Go to Zingerman’s Deli. It wasn’t so much a suggestion as it was a resolute demand. As a naïve, disoriented freshman, I could not comprehend why anyone would want to wait on an endless line for what I assumed to be an overpriced, overrated sandwich. Needless to say, I was baffled when I visited Zingerman’s Deli for the first time: it was an unassuming, insipid building located on an obscure street outside of the University of Michigan campus. The inside, however, though congested with countless students and residents of Ann Arbor, was vibrant and welcoming. Aside from the remarkable quality of food and service at Zingerman’s, what made my experience that much better was that it made me feel like I was part of a community.
I used to deeply regret not applying to the Ross School of Business, for I thought a degree from Ross would provide me with an unlimited amount of opportunities for my future aspirations. Therefore, it was extremely comforting to hear that Ari Weinzweig, one of the founders of Zingerman’s Deli, majored in Russian History in college. What’s more, his love affair with food only began after a modest job waiting tables at a restaurant. These revelations startled me—how does one go from studying history to establishing a renowned gourmet deli? For someone who has no formal education in business, it still astounds me that Ari not only opened a successful and distinguished deli, but seven additional businesses as well.
A self-proclaimed anarchist, Ari differs entirely from the stereotypical businessman. He doesn’t preoccupy himself with sales or profit, but rather on building a respectful, creative workplace. In fact, of all twelve natural laws of business he lists, the majority focuses on creating an environment that employees would want to genuinely be a part of. Essentially, such laws indicate that the taste and quality of food alone is not enough to establish and sustain a successful, popular business. This is something that often goes overlooked in other businesses. Considering Zingerman’s can cite Oprah Winfrey as a fan, it seems as if Ari and his business partners are doing something right.