Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

SEP 2017

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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128 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • SEPTEMBER 2017 e&s segment spotlight Despite the front- and back-of-the-house changes, the menu remains the same. It centers on grilled meat and vegetables with customized toppings rolled into a pita shell. Customers also can choose from dishes like a traditional gyro; the Chicken Caesar with chicken, bacon, lettuce and parmesan; or the Chicken Souvlaki featuring Greek-seasoned chicken. The chain offers several vegetarian options, too, including falafel and spicy black bean patties. Minor menu alterations are common based on customer preference and each dish's popularity. Pita Pit will soon offer specialty menu items with chef-inspired flavors. "For a long time, we've allowed customers to choose their desired pita fillings, but we're finding nowadays they want suggestions and to be pointed in the right direction," says Riggs. "As a result, we created meals with flavors that are complementary, and they can still deviate from those to customize their dishes." Each location has the same equipment package, includ- ing a griddle in the front of the house for exhibition cooking. Most of the prep occurs in the back of the house. Staff slice all of the meat and chop all the vegetables on-site, storing the ingredients in walk-in refrigerators and freezers. Working on sandwich tables, staff construct pita sandwiches and then sear them in a panini press. Pitas are made from a proprietary company recipe at a Canadian bakery and shipped frozen, then steamed on-site. Pita Pit also offers fresh smoothies, which are prepared in blenders in its kitchens. "We always try to be mindful of new eating and flavor profiles, but also want to make sure we're not lurching back and forth too much," says Riggs. "If we see something to benefit our pita, even if it's not a long-term trend, like certain sauces or a different vegetable, we'll test it and look to adopt it." In the short term, the company will continue building new locations, adding drive-thrus to increase its speed of service. "We're competing with people's time and energy, so working as efficiently as possible is key," says Riggs. Starting Small Pays Off When Jumana Bishara's mother Rawia opened Tanoreen in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1998, it was a casual space with a small, open kitchen showcasing authentic Middle Eastern salads and sand- wiches. Word spread that this concept was something special, and eight years ago Tanoreen moved to a larger, 2,000-square- foot space with an 80-seat dining room and full bar. The vibe may have changed, but the emphasis remains on traditional fare as if prepared in a traditional Arab home. To ensure this is the case, Bishara's mother still controls the kitchen. Tanoreen is known for its lamb as well as a large selec- tion of vegetarian and vegan items. Despite incorporating dishes and ingredients that are unfamiliar to many Americans — including Mlookhia Leaves, fresh mlookhia leaves (part of the jute family) stewed with shredded chicken, coriander and lemon-garlic; and Mansaf, a national dish from Jordan of traditional rice pilaf topped with braised lamb meat, home- made yogurt and toasted almonds — the demographic for the restaurant spans all age groups. "We're considered a destination spot in south Brooklyn, since we're off the beaten path in terms of transportation," says Bishara. "We still get people coming in from Jersey, Manhattan and Queens, as well as regulars from the neigh- borhood." As for Arab versus non-Arab guests, she estimates a 70/30 split, with the majority being non-Arab. The front-of-the-house decor reflects a bistro style with a Middle Eastern accent. It includes art on the walls, ceramic knickknacks and traditional instruments decorating the stairwell that leads to the restrooms. A separate entrance for takeout includes two to three tables The redesign at Pita Pit's headquarters location includes a new reversible prep station as well as updated decor and menu graphics. Pita Pit's menu offer- ings center around grilled meat and vege- tables with customized toppings rolled into a pita shell.

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