Retail Spotlight – Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen

o.jpgTheir Success… In a city with sky-high rents and rising expenses, it can be hard to make ends meet on coffee alone. Blank Slate has increased its sales by bridging the gap between coffee shop and restaurant, creating a hybrid best described as a “Café-table” that is the best of both worlds. This concept works on an old premise that is becoming increasingly popular as labor and operational costs increase. In it, guests order from a single point of sale, then take a number to indicate their table as they seat themselves. When the food is ready, a runner brings it out, clears dishes, and attends to guests.

Walking into Blank Slate, guests are greeted with high ceilings and a bright, modern space. During the busiest lunch hour, this space can fill up quickly; tables are laid out to maximize seating with longer shared table spce in the middle and a banquette along the wall. The espresso machine is front and center behind the counter, promising all the caffeine fixes you would expect from a coffee shop, but the large menu on the wall behind makes it clear that Blank Slate wants to keep you fed as well as energized. This menu, which is impossible to miss as you walk up to order,  focuses entirely on prepared food; beverages are listed on a smaller side menu, and there are none of the pastries or baked goods that are usually on display in a coffee shop. Guests who come in in the morning may not be able to get a quick muffin with their coffee, but they can get sweet toast with whipped ricotta and candied bacon, or an egg sandwich with truffled goat cheese.

The breakfast menu is available late on weekends to appeal to midtown brunch-ers, but in the afternoon the selection switches over to salads, sandwiches, and small plates. These offerings are all thoughtfully curated and described on the menu – there are basics (like a rustic chicken sandwich or a Mediterranean salad), but they often have small twists to add a layer of appeal (the caesar salad is made with brussel sprouts, and the meatball sub is made with lamb, mint, and pecorino). The desserts are also in line with what you would expect from a sit down restaurant, including molten chocolate cake with vanilla gelato, and you can pair any of the food with wine or beer offered on tap.

While the menu itself would be at home in an upscale sit-down restaurant, the front of house operations are much more streamlined. Guests order from the register in a single line from which they can get coffee to go or a table number to seat themselves and wait for food. From there, staff members bring orders, fill water, and bus dishes – but ordering and payment is all taken care of.

Take Aways…Blank Slate fills all the needs of a neighborhood coffee shop in a neighborhood that needs plenty of coffee shops, but a finely tuned menu of savory foods (and a streamlined system for serving them) helps Blank Slate do double-duty as a lunch, brunch, and early dinner spot as well. This combo is the heart of the Café-table concept: fill two needs at once, and your morning regulars may just become your most satisfied lunch guests as well.

 

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