Demos’: Past, Present and Future

By Becca George

The legacy of Demos’ stretches so much farther than just their family and restaurants.  The Demos’ have worked to pave the way for dining in Murfreesboro and throughout Middle Tennessee and have been making strides and adding unique concepts in the restaurant industry since opening the original Demos’ in 1989.  Demos’ has paved the way for new concept dining in the past, present, and will continue to change the way we look at dining in the future.

There is so much more to the Demos franchise than just amazing soup. When Doris and Jim Demos opened the first location on Broad Street in Murfreesboro in 1989 it was the first local restaurant of its kind and one of only five full service restaurants in Murfreesboro. They introduced a concept of crave-worthy, yet affordable food that customers could come in and enjoy just as they are.  

Peter Demos, the Demos’ son and now president and CEO of the restaurant company, grew up watching his father in the restaurant industry but it wasn’t until he went away to college that Jim and Doris opened Demos’. Peter would work with his parents at the restaurant when he came home from college on breaks. He and his father would work from early morning until close managing each and every element of the restaurant. “Because of that I understood every component and every piece of it intimately,” explains Peter, “Then we didn’t have manuals, we didn’t have training guides, it was rapid fire changes.”

 Mrs. Demos played an integral role in the attention to detail and quality of service. “A lot of the service aspects and the things we are known for now were based on the things Mrs. Demos liked or didn’t like when she went out to eat,” explains Kristin, Peter’s wife and Director of Marketing, “She was a very observant person. She was a list maker and very organized in her thinking.” They used Mrs. Demos’ dining pet peeves to set standards and fine tune the level of perfection to strive for.

“I would learn about how to run a dining room and how to run a shift from her and on the flipside, I would learn how to run a business from my father,” explains Peter, “I was getting both and two completely different personalities.” From this Demos’ grew and expanded to multiple locations starting with Nashville and eventually opened locations in Hendersonville, Lebanon and Clarksville. This opened up a new set of challenges and opportunities to learn how to make Demos’ work in different communities. Peter became the GM of the Nashville location by 23 and learned at a young how to work with employees who came from all different backgrounds and walks of life.

Being a family affair, each of the Demos’ had their input into the procedures of the business. “One of my favorite memories is that every Sunday morning she {Mrs. Demos} and I would arrive early so we could open up the store,” remembers Peter, “then she would go across the street to Hardee’s, she would always get a sausage biscuit and I would get a steak biscuit. We would sit back at a round table in the corner-it was table 44. We would basically argue and fight over service standards.  It was our favorite time.” Though the restaurant has been renovated since then Peter still has the tabletop to table 44.  “My family, we were never shy,” laughs Peter, “Because of that we could spout our opinions off and we knew they were opinions. The shift could start and we weren’t angry.”

The roots for Peter and Kristin were planted right there in the dining rooms of the original Demos’ restaurant, or their home base. Kristin had worked for the Demos’ for almost two years and didn’t realize their son existed because he was away at law school. “The first time I ever saw him he yelled at me on the server line,” laughs Kristin, “Later that night he complemented me to his mom saying I was the best server on the floor and I thought, “ok, what is up with the guy?.” Mrs. Demos had a hand in setting up Kristin and Peter. “His mom mentioned that I needed to go out with her son and I would tease her saying ‘I am not going out with your son, he is probably mean just like you are’,” Kristin reminisces, “He {Peter} had a girlfriend and his mom was talking to him about me, even saying ‘I met the girl you are going to marry’.” After working together for some time Peter and Kristin started dating and were engaged in three months and then married seven months after that. “I guess your mother knew what she was talking about,” smiles Kristin.   







Peter never intended to be in the restaurant industry but instead went to law school and planned to help others through law. “There were two things I never wanted to do,” laughs Peter, “I never wanted to stay in the restaurant business and I never wanted to get married.” Fortunately, he didn’t adhere to either one of these aspirations.  “I didn’t have any hesitation leaving friends, a girlfriend and family,” explains Peter about when he left for law school, “But when I was walking out of the restaurant for the last time before I left I had the instant homesickness feeling. I always say Demos’ is my home, that is where I grew up.” Kristin and Peter laugh naturally together about Demos’ analog clock. “We used to have an analog clock over the door and that is the one we used to look at to determine whether anyone was late or not,” explains Peter as he turns to Kristin, “You probably remember that.” “I was running in going ‘I’m not late’,” laughs Kristin. “It’s Demos Standard Time,” laughs Peter, “I saw that clock and it was immediate homesickness.”

Peter realized that there were parts of law that he absolutely loved but other that he absolutely hated. The days he would come back and work in the restaurant were the days he felt the best and felt the most energized. “I realized that I had the ability to help people in the restaurant business more than I ever could as a lawyer,” explains Peter.  This realization came about two weeks into his engagement with Kristin.  He called his father and asked him to go for a drive.  “When we needed to have a serious talk we would always go for a ride,” explains Peter, “We drove to Shelbyville and on the way down I told him.” What Peter didn’t realize was that Mr. and Mrs. Demos were in the process of trying to find someone to purchase the restaurant but his decision made this unnecessary. In 2001 they turned the restaurant over to Peter and sold it to he and his sister a few years after that.

In 2014 the Demos’ company opened their new concept, Peter D’s. The idea dates back to 1990 and was inspired by a restaurant Peter visited in Boone, NC. They originally thought it would be something, bright, lively and colorful with a focus on sandwiches. With fears that it would end up too close to other chain sandwich shops they began to re-think the concept realizing that there was a lack of date night options in Murfreesboro. “We said, what if we made it a more casual, upscale concept,” explains Peter. “Where you feel comfortable coming in dressed as you are but you are going to get an upscale experience,” adds Kristin. Many of the menu items on Peter D’s menu came from Peter’s original ideas.  Though it has evolved greatly from the original plan, Peter D’s proves to be another concept that offered something new to Murfreesboro.

Peter and Kristin, along with their children, all feel that the Murfreesboro Demos’ is home. “When we are out of town for a long time we drop our stuff off at home but we want to go to Demos’,” she explains. Their kids have been a part of the business since they were little, spending mornings before preschool in the stillness of the unopened restaurant. They were able to feel part of the legacy with jobs and opinions from a young age. Kristin and Peter try to pass the importance to love what you are doing onto their children. They talk about work a lot but work to hone in on the strengths and natural skill set their children possess, much the same way they do with their business. Peter has a strong inclination to the recipes and the systems. His office shows that he is a researcher and a thinker. Kristin bring about a playfulness with her vivacious personality and fresh ideas for marketing and design.

The legacy of Demos’, and now Peter D’s, stretches much farther than their immediate family, they consider every member of their staff as extended family. As they have evolved as a company they have made changes to their company culture. “While our core has always been and always will be customer focused our why has changed in the last few years,” explains Kristin. This why changed four years ago when Peter became a Christian and as a family and company they made the decision to turn everything over to God making them a “faith-forward” company. “It is our intent that we reflect the love of Christ through our every interaction,” says Kristin. They extend this love to their employees through weekly work bible studies, focusing on “values of the week”, offering a corporate chaplain to visit the stores weekly, and setting up prayer lists for each of their locations.  After making the decision to be “faith-forward” they were named a 2017 Tennessee Top Workplace, which they had been denied when applying for several years earlier. “Caring for and serving our employees has been key in that success,” says Kristin.

The future for the Demos holds another new concept and growth in Middle Tennessee this time with the launch of a new concept, PDK, Southern Kitchen and Pantry. The first of these fast-casual restaurants will open in Bellevue in the winter of 2018 and a second will follow in Mount Juliet. Unlike most fast-casual dining that focus on one type of item they plan to focus on multiple chef-inspired menu offerings. PDK will feature a trend-forward design and an open concept kitchen where guests will be able to see their food being prepared and will offer only fresh ingredients.  Most of their ingredients will be available to purchase in a retail side of the restaurant. “Anything we use in our restaurant you can buy,” explains Peter, “You can buy the onion that will go in the salad. Many restaurants advertise fresh but we want them {our customers} to be able to see it.”

PDK is partnering with Just Love Coffee and Kristin explains that they will feature “food with a purpose” products that will allow for a portion of the profits to be donated back to a cause like building a well in Africa or helping a dog shelter.  PDK will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week with limited Sunday hours. All the sales on Sunday will go to benefit a cause or local organization.

The Demos and the company they represent have no plans of slowing down in the future but will continue to help the employees and people in the communities they serve grow. “Without our incredible staff, both current and past, we would not be where we are now,” explains Kristin, “We know that it is by the grace of God and the incredible people, both customers and employees, that He has brought through our doors over the last almost 28 years that we are where we are today.”