Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

APR 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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APRIL 2018 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • 73 a slight angle, with the team member facing guests in the ordering line. Protected by a food shield instead of a full- height glass wall like the hot equipment, "it really gives the customer the opportunity to almost step inside the kitchen, take a look at what's going on and engage with folks as they're plating other people's food. It gives you an idea of what side you might want as you look in," says Wall. In addition to the aesthetics and customer experience of the plating station, a lot of thought went into its equipment. The plating station comprises two, 2-foot by 2-foot conduc- tion warming tables. These conduction units warm all the table surfaces. Compared to the defined heating zones of induction tops, this gives Zoës the flexibility to add new hot sides simply by shift- ing some pans, says Wall. While a steam table would have been flexible, too, the presentation simply isn't as nice as a good set of pots and pans. Finally, by having two identical units, Zoës has built in redundancy should one table malfunction. The cold line follows the plating station. This includes two refrigerated work tables with drop-in wells. Staff use one of the tables to assemble salads and the other for cold sand- wiches, as well as cold sides like hummus. This section also houses a food warming cabinet for holding backups of hot sides. On top of this is a cheese melter used for toasting pita bread. Once assembled and plated, all items are placed on a pass-through window on the restaurant's cold side. Growth Through Value After rolling out a new prototype, companies commonly tweak the design and/or kitchen layout after a few months of operation. With the new Zoës prototype only open a few weeks, the chain hasn't had enough operational experience to know what it needs to change, Hall says. Early results for the store are positive, though. While staff adjust to the new store, the location hasn't pushed catering sales. Sales, though, remain solid even without this revenue stream. The dine-in/off-premise split has also been encouraging, with about 60 percent of guests enjoying their food at the restaurant vs. 50 percent system-wide. The chain remains cautiously optimistic this reflects the quality of the new design and improved customer experience. "We're going to watch that trend and see where it goes," Hall says. "I think there's an opportunity as the weather gets better for people to take advantage of the patio. That's a little bit tough to do right now. That might give us an uptick on the dine-in and potentially even the beverage platform." Looking ahead, the company plans to open 25 to 28 new stores in 2018. That's actually down from 38 last year. The lower number of new stores, Hall says, will let Zoës remodel around a dozen older restaurants due for a refresh. These loca- tions will be given a similar look and feel in the dining room, though the kitchen won't change to keep remodel costs low. What's more, the chain will likely stay in its existing mar- kets as it expands, with a focus on larger metropolitan areas in the Southeast, as far west as Arizona and into Kansas. No matter the number and locations of stores it opens this year, all will be company owned. Zoës has only one franchisee in the system, and that partner is not expanding. While most concepts with 250 locations have long fran- chised, Zoës prefers to control its stores and the experience it offers its customers, Hall says. With this new design, Zoës once again proves how much it cares about the guest experience the chain provides. During a time when many others continue to de-emphasize the dine-in environment, Zoës feels that providing a better experience will help get diners not only in the door, but sitting down and enjoying their food. "In this environment, customers are going to perceive a better value, even though the food is going to be the same and the price is going to be the same. Our feeling is they'll enjoy their experience better. So far, we've gotten that feedback." FE&S

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