Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

JUL 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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sidebar text ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 78 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • JULY 2018 chain profile ● Chain Headquarters: Boca Raton, Fla. ● Year Founded: 2016 ● Signature Menu Items: The Cuban, which consists of a mac and cheese base topped with mojo-marinated pulled pork, ham, Gruyere cheese and dill pickles; and Lobster & White Truffle, which consists of a mac and cheese base topped with Maine lobster, Muenster cheese, lobster cream and white truffle oil ● Number of Units: 6 with 14 more in different stages of development ● Unit Size: 1,500 to 2,000 square feet (40 percent front of house, 60 percent back of house) ● Seats per Unit: 45-50 ● Location Type: Inline, endcap, campus food court ● Growth Projections: 20 units open by end of 2018 ● Check Average: Approximately $12 ● Equipment Package Cost (Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment): $75,000-$82,000 FACTS OF NOTE Cold prep also happens at this table, particularly cutting vegetables, though the company has been eliminating this sort of work in favor of prepared products. By purchasing presliced cheese, for instance, the company eliminated the need for a slicer, reducing equipment costs. The upfront production line is more extensive than the kitchen in back. I Heart Mac & Cheese guests can order from its list of spe- cialties or build their own bowl or sandwich. At the start of the line, diners tell a staffer what they'd like. That staffer then either retrieves the bread for a sandwich from a small countertop display or fills a fiberboard bowl with noodles or lettuce. The chain stores noodles and lettuce in a cold table capable of holding two full-sized pans. One pan holds regular pasta, the other pan divides to hold a half pan for whole-wheat pasta and a half for lettuce. The chain also offers gluten-free pasta but de- mand is low enough that staff simply pull that out when necessary. Following this cold table sits a unit with four drop-in induction soup wells: two for the chain's cheese sauce, one for marinara and one for tomato bisque soup. If making a mac and cheese dish, the staffer at the induc- tion wells pours the noodles from the fiberboard bowl into a metal bowl, mixes in the cheese sauce, then pours the noodles and cheese back into the fiberboard bowl. Collins acknowledges that pouring the noodles from bowl to bowl adds 15 to 20 seconds to the production time, but feels this is best for the customers and the operation. Previously, noodles were scooped directly into the stainless bowl; in some cases, their volume wouldn't fill up the fiber- board bowl. Staffers would then have to create a mini serving of noodles and cheese to add to that fiberboard bowl, throwing off the rhythm of the production line and skewing food costs with the now correct amount of pasta but too much cheese. "[The fiberboard bowl] is what we're using to see if the bowl is full. It's right in our hands. Why don't we just use it to begin with?" asked Collins. After sending the noodles and cheese back down the line, staffers add ingredients from either the cold table or hot table. For sandwiches and salads, team members then turn around to the back line and place them on the belt of one of two conveyor ovens. In the previous design, these ovens sat next to one an- other. Collins and his team, though, noticed staffers had little room for the final steps, such as adding seven swirls of cheese sauce to each dish for presentation and bagging to-go orders. The new I Heart Mac & Cheese production line stacks these ovens, freeing up space for these tasks. Another new addition is the display terminal at the end of the oven line. Previously staffers would simply call out the actual dish for guests to retrieve; they can now call guests by name — a personal touch that fits with the brand. In addition to the ovens, the back line has a hot holding cabinet for storing hot items, while the chain keeps cold items in undercounter refrigeration and drawers below the cold tables. Front of the House I Heart Mac & Cheese intentionally keeps its equipment package and operations simple. Its dining area also has few frills, with a simple epoxy floor, a dropped ceiling and alumi- num tables and chairs. The dining area's signature design elements, though, give the restaurant a "farmhouse chic" appearance. Wood paneling sits on the bottom half of walls and the face of the counter, while some one- and two-level wooden shelving hold items like old milk bottles and small milk jugs. The restaurant's decor includes other dairy cues, too. Cus- tom wallpaper, designed in part by Chef Blum's wife, features sketches of cows, wheels and chunks of cheese, and red hearts. A Complementary Brand In the coming months, I Heart Mac & Cheese plans to add company-owned and franchised stores, with ideal partners existing multi-unit franchisees who've maxed out their cur- rent concepts in their territories. Given its size — 1,500 to 2,000 square feet — the operation fits into real estate that other restaurants simply can't make work. I Heart Mac & Cheese is also a good fit for several types of markets, Collins says. Suburbs with some office space are ideal, he says, providing customers for both lunch and dinner dayparts. The chain also targets areas near universities and has signed leases near Auburn University, Syracuse University, the University of Alabama, University of Florida and more. As it expands into these areas, the operators will no doubt benefit from the simplicity of I Heart Mac & Cheese's operation and its kitchen. FE&S

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