Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

AUG 2019

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 2019 FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES 69 restaurant. "My mother said, 'Now is the perfect time. Why don't we do the food that we love, which is our food.'" With that, The Hummus & Pita Co. was born. Pan-Mediterranean, Pan-Middle Eastern As the concept's name indicates, the menu features primarily Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern cuisine. Axelrod has roots in Israel, while Pesso's father is Greek. Growing up, then, Pesso remem- bers taking long trips to reach ethnic grocers, and eating hummus and pita, eggplant, lamb and falafel. With Pesso's family not limited to one speci†c country's cuisine, he and Axelrod decided to do the same for their concept. This approach, says Pesso, allows the restaurant chain to appeal to as many people as possible. "When people go for Greek food, they'll go once every couple of months. The same for Turkish or Israeli or halal. We wanted to make something that someone could visit every day and feel that they're not just going for Mediterranean or Middle Eastern food, but they are going for healthy and delicious food," says Pesso. This nonethnic approach to the food carries over to the restaurant's design.That means, †rst and foremost, the restaurant doesn't use ethnic design elements like decorative hookahs or pictures of Greek islands. Instead the design simply remains bright and clean, even corporate. That was no accident. While the concept was started by a family that's passionate about the food they know and love, its founders were never out to open a mom-and-pop restaurant. Developing a successful franchise was the plan from the beginning. Natural, authentic materials †ll the interior of the restaurant space. The din- ing area uses reclaimed wood tables in conjunction with chairs and banquettes, as well as some counter-height seating at the front window. Walls are brick, some painted white, with murals showcasing the restaurant's logo and touting its food. Like so many other fast-casual concepts, guests walk down the make line, seeing their options and mak- ing their choices as they go. The line itself has a polished appearance, with barnwood on the face and static menu boards against a red background. These design choices, Pesso emphasizes, help give an individual restaurant the appearance and ambi- ence of a scalable concept. "When we originally built the place, it was always in our mind to build it and have it look like there are hundreds of them. We wouldn't want to look like the normal shawarma or falafel place." Franchisable Design, Franchisable Kitchen To get to the point of franchising, the founders always knew they'd need more than good food and a clean appearance. They'd need a partner. They weren't looking for just an inves- tor, says Pesso. They sought a group that could help guide them through the franchise process and help develop the operational processes and business practices necessary to be a successful franchisor. "Going back to our visits at the franchise expos, a lot of franchi- sees' main problems were they never got enough support from the franchisor. We knew that was some- thing that we didn't want to happen. We wanted to go a little top-heavy on support." They found the right partner, Pesso says, in Kitchen Fund, a New York-based investment company that specializes in emerging restaurant concepts. The †rm, says Pesso, helped The Hummus & Pita Co. †ne-tune practically all aspects of its business, from waste management to portion control to training processes to, yes, kitchen design. In this realm, much of Kitchen Fund's advice focused on selecting the right equipment. As relatively new operators, says Pesso, the chain's lead- ership team didn't have a †rm grasp of the different manufacturer value propositions or the calculations that justify investing more on a higher- quality piece of equipment with lower maintenance and a longer life cycle. The investment company also helped the chain make its kitchen design more ef†cient through the use of overhead shelving and more logical placement of equipment. "Before, it was spread out, and there was no real rhyme or reason. We want it to be as simple and convenient for our employees as possible," says Pesso. Much of the work to produce The Hummus & Pita Co.'s food takes place in the back-of-the-house kitchen, where staff make salads, sauces and dips in bulk. Prep begins at 7 a.m. each day with a single staffer who works until around 2 p.m., when enough food is prepped for the dinner hours, Pesso says. Much of this team member's work focuses on breaking Key players: Janice Axelrod, president and co-founder; Dave Pesso, co-founder Chain headquarters: Holmdel, N.J. Year founded: 2011 Signature menu items: Hummus and pita, shawarma, falafel, plus the eight sauces, which include harissa, tzatziki, chimichurri and tahina. Signature desserts include Chickpea Schmear and Chickpea Chiller Bowl Number of units: Seven Unit size: 1,200 to 2,200 sq. ft. Seats per unit: 16 to 68 Location type: Inline, end-cap, food court Total system sales: $10 million Average sales: $1.4 million Unit growth projections: 100 units in five years Check average: $13.60 Equipment package cost: $110,000 Interior designer: Bolt Design Kitchen design consultant: Kitchen Design and Equipment Equipment dealer: City Restaurant Services The Hummus & Pita Co.

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