Peter Demos, A Christian Business Leader Who Listens
Actively listening to serve employees and customers alike
In a business world that prioritizes productivity, speed, and profits, Christians may feel like Monday through Friday belongs to the world while Sunday belongs to God. But Scripture beckons Christians toward a more holistic lifestyle. “Whatever you do,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “do it all to the glory of God.”
Christianity Today spoke to five C12 Members who want to do more than simply run another successful company. These leaders want their faith in Christ to be fully integrated into their business practices, influencing everything from production to employee relations, from hiring practices to strategic planning.
Here’s Peter Demos, owner of Demos’ Restaurants.
Image: Photo by Austin Lord
Peter Demos grew up in the family restaurant but began his career as a lawyer. Yet, his heart quickly called him back to the hospitality industry and restaurants rich with memories and possibilities. After successfully running a restaurant for 12 years, he gave his life to Christ in his forties. This was the first act of listening to God that would allow Demos to become who he is now—not only a successful restaurateur of four Demos’ Restaurant and two PDK Southern Kitchen locations but also an author, speaker, and the man at the helm of a dozen entities.
Demos’s understanding of his mission and purpose was further clarified when a trusted mentor told him that he isn’t actually the managing director of the company—God is. Ever since then, Demos has viewed himself as a steward. He reads Scripture every day and fills a board at his office with prayer requests he believes God has asked him and his fellow Christian employees to pray for. And he listens to the needs that arise among his 500+ employees so that he can ask God for ways to help meet their needs.
Take transportation, for example. As gentrification has increased in the Nashville neighborhood surrounding Demos’ Restaurant, some employees had been forced to sell their cars in order to afford housing. Demos realized these employees were walking three to four miles home after long hours on their feet during their shifts at the restaurant. So he created a bike ministry to give away 20 bikes. Each bike was prayed over and given in the name of Jesus.
This careful listening and intentional response coupled with clarifying his motive is imperative to Demos. “I talk about the parable of the talents,” Demos says. “We can sit there and talk about all the nice, good stuff we do [like giving away bikes], but if we don’t share the gospel? Jesus calls that wicked. So we make sure that in our business, we try to [share the gospel] through boldness.”
Demos also listens to his employees through his company’s monthly review process in which employees can provide feedback and submit prayer requests. “Everything that’s written down, whether it’s a joke or a criticism, comes across my desk,” he says. “I carefully review and respond to the needs expressed by my employees.”
Listening and learning from one another finds its fullest expression in the way Demos positions his restaurants as a place where customers’ needs are served with excellence.
“We aren’t being judged compared to everybody else,” he says. “We’re being judged [by our customers] based off the last time [they] came in and ate with us. Every day needs to be an improvement.”
Demos communicates this point however and whenever he can: Other restaurants are not his competition. He is his own competition. And God is his managing director.
“I don’t care what the restaurant down the street is doing,” Demos continues. “If God wants my business to fail, I can’t do anything to stop him. If he’s done with our restaurant, I can’t thwart his plan. However, if he wants it to succeed, he doesn’t have to use me for that. I have to work really hard to be in alignment with what he wants or he’s going to find somebody else to come in and take over the business.”
It’s with this clear-eyed, determined focus that Demos works. He’s still listening—to his customers’ feedback about the menus or his decision to give away Bibles at his restaurants (if they’re upset, Demos says that’s just a chance to share the gospel), to his employees wearing out their shoes trudging to work, to that heart whisper that brought him back to the restaurant industry, and, above all, to his Managing Director.
*This profile originally appeared in the article “5 Companies Radically Shaped by the Faith of Their Owners” published here and in the May/June 2020 issue of Christianity Today.
July 23, 2020