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APRIL 2017 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 97 At the same time, the chain takes steps to keep drinking under control so that all parties feel comfortable in the same restaurant, Sauter says. "Alcohol sales are very important to what we do, but we are very smart about how to use it. We don't do pitchers of beer, and the types of spirits used to pro- mote shot drinking aren't really something that we market to our guests. The environment is for when you want to come in and have a couple of nice craft beers or a handmade cocktail." Families appreciate the distractions for kids, including temporary tattoos and coloring sheets, as well a kids' menu featuring a made-to-order mac-and-cheese dish and craft root beer. Good food and drink remain at the heart of the Rusty Bucket experience. The chain operates a kitchen that is 90 percent scratch, according to Sauter. The menu focuses on classic comfort food, including burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips and pizza. While maintaining food quality, the appearance of Rusty Bucket's front of the house has changed in recent years. Origi- nally, the place had a straight-up casual design, including plastic tablecloths and waiters in T-shirts. A few years ago, however, the chain began updating its ap- pearance to match the polished-casual quality of the food. The plastic tablecloths, for instance, have been replaced by hard- wood tabletops. And the staff now wear high-quality branded polo shirts. The chain's color palette now includes natural materials, such as black leather upholstered seats, exposed brick and plenty of dark woods. Many Rusty Bucket loca- tions also offer outdoor seating on a covered patio. During the colder months, Rusty Bucket places vinyl panels on the patio and adds heaters to make the space usable. While the earliest Rusty Bucket stores had beer signs, tin signs and other straight-up casu- al touches, the new store design features a much cleaner appear- ance. The new design limits wall decor. Though it does include one featured Rusty Bucket logo, it doesn't try to force the brand into the design, says Sauter. "We already got them in the door. We don't need to pump our logo and the name repeat- edly on top of our guests," says Sauter. "Over the last year we've been in the process of trying to take what we do and elevating it a notch, making sure everything was cleaner, more polished. We got a lot of the restaurant stuff out of the guests' view." Changes include repositioning side stands so guests no longer see waiters entering orders in the POS system and storing items like napkins and pitchers out of view. Kitchen Efficient The operational changes extend into the kitchen, where production has been streamlined. According to Sauter, the changes were the result of a series of discussions held with the chain's frontline personnel. "We could feel by the end of 2015 that we were straining the stores with what we were asking them to do. So we started l Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio l Year Founded: 2002 l Signature Menu Items: Deep-fried pickles, blackened salmon salad, Buffalo chicken sandwich, Asian tuna wrap, Baja fish tacos, fish and chips, The Big Sicilian pizza and the Rusty Bucket Burger l Number of units: 24 FACTS OF NOTE Rusty Bucket takes precau- tions with alcohol sales, such as not selling pitchers of beer, to ensure the environment remains inviting for everyone. chain profile