Author Archives: Harris Eckstut

Joe Cicala on Twitter: Angela Cicala’s Nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef In James Beard Awards


Chef Joe Cicala’s Neapolitan Pizza in a Regular Oven

Not everyone has a wood fired oven at home. Joe Cicala, Chef of Cicala at the Divine Lorraine, make a Neapolitan pizza in a regular oven. Cicala at the Divine Lorraine is one of the many restaurants Eckstut Consulting has guided to success.  



A Pizza Oven Built During the COVID-19 quarantine 

Cicala at the Divine Lorraine opened in November 2019 — only a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with COVID-19’s challenges, Cicala became an extraordinary restaurant and earned 3 Bells from Craig Laban as well as a spot in Philly Mag’s Philadelphia’s 50 Best Restaurants. During quarantine, Joe Cicala built a Neapolitan wood-fired pizza oven in his own backyard! 

Best of Philly: 2021 Best Italian Restaurant Cicala


Best of Philly awards Cicala with 2021 Best Italian Restaurant and Best Restaurant We Never Got to Fully Celebrate:

Mentoring a Lower Hudson Valley NY coffee shop to financial stability

  • A coffee shop in Rockland County, NY has not been profitable.
  • It has a very good location with excellent pedestrian traffic – especially on the weekends.
  • Sales remained constant during COVID-19.
  • Baked goods are made in-house and are EXCELLENT.
  • Sales volume can handle the rent.
  • In reviewing the un-profitable status, the PRIME COSTS of Labor and Product were too high.
  • Ticket averages were low – i.e. not selling enough of house made baked goods.
  • The owner and Harris put together an agenda for a management meeting to address these issues.
  • Number one on the agenda was to call for a weekly management meeting the same day of the week at the same time every week – no exceptions.
  • At the first meeting, we addressed why the cafe was losing money.
  • The Prime Costs were too high
  • #1 pricing – by analyzing the costs of the coffee and pastry – and researching competitor pricing – it was determined that prices were too low.
  • Retail “dogs’ not produced in house with high costs did not help ticket average or promote more business. And they were cutting into purchases of more profitable house made products.
  • Scheduling personnel needed to be tightened up – especially anticipating busy and slow days.

Why were sales low?

  • Merchandising in store was just wrong.
  • Confusion of available product.
  • Front window did not “sell” to all the pedestrians walking by
  • Confusion of where and how to order.
  • The shop was promoting self enough

The Result

  • By immediately addressing these issues in a thoughtful, well-planned, and reasonable manner sales increased immediately, profit margins on products increased.
  • Even with increasing employee wages, labor costs went down.
  • 3 months later, the coffee shop was generating a significant profit for the owner/operator with more sales growth on the way
  • The business is being run more effectively on a daily basis.

Vernick Food & Drink: Review in Philadelphia Inquirer

Craig LaBan reviews Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia Inquirer:

Conde Nest Reviews Vernick Food & Drink

Conde Nest Reviews Vernick Food & Drink:

Foobooz Review: Cicala at the Divine Lorraine Isn’t This Good by Accident

Foobooz review on Cicala:



This two class course is geared towards those individuals who dream of one day owning and operating a restaurant – as well as those interested in investing in one.

Harris Eckstut shares his knowledge from over 30 years as a successful Philadelphia restaurant owner. He provides insights that can only come from long-term accomplishment and commitment. Eckstut is not only an expert in restaurant ownership and consulting, but is a lively presenter who incorporates his restaurant business knowledge and depth of experience keeping attendees actively engaged.

From a recent class attendee, and longtime restaurateur,

“…Harris Eckstut is outstanding. He is the most knowledgeable restaurant consultant that I have met in my career in Philadelphia. His lecture was a tour de force. In a low key fashion, he covered a great amount of information….”

Another grateful attendee shared this thank you note:

“The information you gave us was beyond useful! We now have a more realistic perspective about the restaurant business.”

Greg Vernick, Chef/Owner, Vernick Food & Drink in Philadelphia:

“Vernick Food & Drink would not be as successful without the help of Harris Eckstut.”

Connie Correia, owner of the Pop Shop in Collingswood, NJ:

“Harris took us by the hand and taught us all the things about the restaurant business that we didn’t even know we didn’t know! Because of him, we are still in business and now thriving instead of floundering.”

His professional services include: leasing and development, sales and purchases, operational analysis and planning, “turnarounds,” and “start-ups” for the independent or prospective restaurant owner. He also evaluates business plans, operations and budgets for lenders, investors, developers, community organizations, and urban and suburban Main Street planning.

Harris owned the legendary MontSerrat Restaurant on South Street for 25 years and has over 30 years’ experience in the independent restaurant industry.  In the last two years he has assisted in opening and/or expansion of the highly successful: Vernick Food & Drink, Cicala’s at The Divine Lorraine, The Good Karma Cafes, Sang Kee, The Pop Shop in Medford/Collingswood, NJ, Green Line Cafés, 320 Market Café in Swarthmore, T&N Kitchens, Philly Farm Truck, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (MD) The Cow & The Curd, as well as working with new restaurant start-ups, lenders, investors, landlords, attorneys, community development organizations, and developers.