Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

AUG 2018

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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● ● ● ● AUGUST 2018 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 55 chain profile with, it usually came down to people closing because they were undercapitalized and they were usually undercapitalized because they spent too much money during construction. There were time delays or they overspent on the buildouts — whatever it may be. I thought it would be wise to learn that side of the business and understand what it takes to get something truly built from scratch." Rubin spent about three years learn- ing the ropes: design, development, real estate, permitting, construction — basically everything it takes to go from an idea to a working restaurant. During these three years, the itch to start his own operation never really left. He spent months shopping concepts. The idea of a grilled cheese concept stood out the most. "No one was actually growing or scaling a grilled cheese concept at the time," Rubin says. "I thought it was a big opportunity because it wasn't some super exotic food that no one's heard of before. It was really approachable, really familiar and gave you a lot of opportunity for variation." With his focus on buildout costs, Rubin spent some time looking for a good place to test his concept. He found one in a walk-up window-style space in a plaza surrounded by office buildings in Manhattan. Not only did it offer plenty of foot traffic, the space had previously been occupied by another concept. Its existing infrastructure drove down the buildout price for the first Melt Shop to just $200,000. That first store, says Rubin, validated the concept, but the operational side showed room for improvement. The chain relied on a simple flattop grill to cook its sandwiches. While this approach put out a quality product, ticket times regularly hit 15 minutes. Over the next several years, the chain opened new stores with new cooking platforms. Only recently did Melt Shop hit upon the kitchen package that Rubin believes will propel the brand from a handful of stores to triple-digit locations. Hot Side Hunt Melt Shop operates an open kitchen that sits just behind the restaurant's POS counter. After customers place orders, the kitchen display system sends those orders to the production area. Sandwich assembly starts on the cold line, where a team member (facing the dining area) assembles ingredients from a repurposed pizza table. These ingredients include buttered bread, cheeses and roasted vegetables. Rubin chose the pizza table instead of a sandwich table, because it offers a larger staging area for pans. Proteins include sirloin steak, whole turkey breasts and chicken breasts. Staff reheat proteins using the sous vide method, then slice proteins in-house. After assembly, staff plate the sandwich open-faced on a metal plate (to give each piece of bread the grilled cheese look and taste) and send it through a double-stacked electric conveyor oven. The oven that Melt Shop uses today is the culmination of years of testing by Rubin and his team. Melt Shop's first concept, a walk-up window, used a simple flattop, resulting in long ticket times. The next location relied on a high-end panini grill/microwave combination. Rubin, however, felt product quality suffered with this piece. What's more, he felt that unit actually lengthened the ticket times. "Even though on a one-to-one basis the panini was good and you could get it out the door quickly, when we had a line out the door we were running crazy cooking times. It just couldn't keep up," Rubin says. "You can put 15 sandwiches on a grill. Even though you have a longer ticket time for an individual order, the overall ticket time went down, especially during our peak hours." While fine for a restaurant with a broader menu, Rubin felt the panini equipment simply couldn't keep up with a grilled cheese concept. The chain's current double-stacked conveyor oven can cook up to four sandwiches at a time (two side-by-side on each belt) in just 1 minute, 45 seconds. By "blasting" the bot- tom air jets and easing up on the top, it also produces a high- quality sandwich similar to what's produced on a flattop. ● Key Players: Spencer Rubin, founder and CEO; Josh Morgan, chief operating officer ● Interior Designer: Whitney Clark, Maker ● Kitchen Design Consultant: Johnson-Lancaster and Associates Inc. ● Equipment Dealer: Johnson-Lancaster and Associates Inc. MELT SHOP AT A GLANCE Most of Melt Shop's locations are in the New York City area, where its inline stores hover around 1,600 square feet. Retrofits of older inline stores now reflect the chain's newest look. Design elements include glazed white brick tile, black seating and tables made from reclaimed bowling alley wood.

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