Enterprise Insight: Launch Strategy

In this month’s Retail Spotlight, we discussed a single-product concept and how it is successfully operating in the city despite high rents and intense competition. In this month’s Enterprise Insight, we will discuss the strategy of launching and growing a single-product enterprise with specific case studies.

The benefits of launching a simple-product specialty shop are obvious: lower costs, less (slightly) to worry about, and a way to stand out in NYC’s crowded food landscape. But getting it done isn’t so obvious. Based on the most successful examples we’ve come across, the most effective path is participation in the NYC market scene.

The New York City food market scene started to simmer in 2011. That’s when the team behind Brooklyn Flea, which had been incubating some food vendors, launched Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. Since then, Smorgasburg has expanded to Dumbo and to a permanent facility, Berg’n, in Crown Heights. Across the river, UrbanSpace had transplanted from the UK and started the Grand Central Terminal and Union Square holiday markets around 2003. In 2008, UrbanSpace went food-forward with Mad. Sq. Eats just off of Madison Square Park.

These markets have become proving grounds for concepts looking to test the sharky NYC restaurant waters.

Take, for example, Dough, the wildly popular doughnut shop in the Flatiron district. Dough started in Williamsburg’s Smorgasburg long before launching a brick and mortar shop. Dough simmered in Smorgasburg, building a reputation, testing recipes, and earning real revenue. Then, this past fall, the company opened their first shop with lines around the block.

Likewise, Melissa Weller started selling bagels in Smorgasburg in 2013. Weller had been kneading and baking for the likes of Thomas Keller and Roberta’s before starting her own company, East River Bread, and selling at the market. Now, Weller has been tapped to team up with Major Food Group to bake those bagels for their next concept, Sadelle’s.

Entrepreneurs eager to start their foodservice business in a market have plenty of homework to do in advance. The most successful concepts have done their market research and crunched their numbers. The markets do not allow overlap between concepts, and each market has a different rental agreement. For example, the all-indoor Gotham West Market charges market-rate rents, while at Berg’n, vendors pay a percentage of their overall profits.

The biggest barriers to entry in the foodservice business are capital and exposure. Focusing on one product allows you to keep capital costs down and increases your chances of getting into a market such as Smorgasburg, which increases your exposure.

BLUE RIBBON FRIED CHICKEN: SINGLE PRODUCT ENTERPRISE

28 East 1st Street between Extra Place and 2nd Street (East Village) • 212.228.0404

BlueRibbonFriedChicken

Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken

Their Success…For many, fried chicken is still associated with old-timey diners frequented by senior citizens in the boondocks of the Deep South. Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken is breaking this untrue stereotype. The immediate impression a customer gets upon entering is “modern” and “clean,” two unlikely culprits from a restaurant that is known for their fried chicken, an infamously greasy provision. From the sensor-based TOMRA waste bins, to the credit-card drink and ice cream ordering screen that conveniently permits customers who aren’t ordering chicken to skip the line and pay instantly, Blue Ribbon possesses all the qualities of a technologically superior enterprise. The high ceilings and bold, colorful fonts that don the printed menu display board reflect the restaurant’s avant-garde qualities.

Staff is always on the floor, constantly ensuring counters, floors and seats are immaculate, wiping down hot sauce bottles, and restocking the wet naps at the self-serve station. No section of Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken remains unkempt for longer than a couple of minutes before an attentive employee cleans it. The trash is taken out long before it overflows, and there’s a large self-serve station just a few feet away from the tables, ruling out the inconvenience of having to return to the cash wrap each time another wet nap is needed.

Now about the chicken. Blue Ribbon maintains the succulent meat and crispy skin exterior that Americans have grown so fond of, and with a few intuitive updates they have preserved the chicken’s dignity while augmenting its oomph factor. Off the bat, customers have the choice between white and dark meat. The menu’s flexibility accommodates just about any level of hunger; customers can order chicken parts a la carte (breast, thigh, wing, etc.) or meal combos/specials, party-size orders for larger groups, chicken sandwiches, burgers and salads. The only meal that doesn’t have some chicken component to it is dessert— but even if that were to change in the future, we’re confident Blue Ribbon would find a way to make it appetizing. At each table rests five hot sauces; from mild to hot they are: mustard honey, wildflower honey, chipotle honey, wasabi honey and habanero hot sauce. This accomodating table selection allows customers to skip the embarrassment of displaying their grease-covered fingers and the hassle of multiple trips to the self-serve station each time they’d like to dress their fried chicken meals with more hot sauce. The entire menu embodies “modernity,” so to speak, from the hybrid ice cream flavors like carrot & habanero to the chicken burger with caramelized pineapple.

Take Aways…Taking small steps to differentiate a mainstream food is what makes your enterprise stand out from the thousands of others that also focus on that food. Adding contemporary elements in both the menu and restaurant amenities is a recipe for segment-increasing success.

CHOBANI SOHO: RETAIL YOGURT ENTERPRISE

150 Prince Street between Thompson Street and West Broadway (SoHo) • 646.998.3800

Chobani

Chobani SoHo

Their Success…Chobani SoHo, currently the only Chobani outpost in the world, transforms a notoriously healthy yet mundane food (yogurt) into something delicious and accessible. Chobani SoHo’s philosophy, “yogurt was meant to be simple— just milk and cultures,” speaks volumes. This “simplicity” is present in the store’s design, menu format and food selection. Genuinely friendly and knowledgable staff operates Chobani, guiding customers through the menu and helping them select their ideal “creation.” Chobani employees take customer service one step further by having foresight and using customers’ questions as an opportunity to make optimal yogurt recommendations. Half portions cost $4 and full portions $5.50. Although yogurt and water are the only food and beverage items sold, Chobani is far from prosaic. The nine sweet and savory creations cater to customers of all preferences, whether they’re coming from the gym, work or school. Each “creation” features three-five additions which will satisfy almost anyone’s cravings. Limiting the number of choices a customer has to make creates a more welcoming environment.

Simplicity not only embodies Chobani’s food and philosophy, but also the ordering process. The staff to customer ratio is ideal, a clear assembly line leads to seamless and efficient order-placement, and the iPad POS Ambur results in quick and efficient payment transactions.

Take Aways…Any food, no matter how it’s currently perceived by the public, can be turned into something exciting. A few additions go a long way, in Chobani’s case.

BAREBURGER: SINGLE-PRODUCT ENTERPRISE

514 3rd Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets (Murray Hill) • 212.679.2273

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Bareburger Murray Hill

Their Success…Incorporating the trend towards transparent food sourcing with a classic favorite—burgers and fries. As the dining public becomes more aware of food origins and demands more transparency from restaurants and other food establishments, many enterprises are making small notes on their menu or incorporating local produce where they can. Bareburger, however, has built sustainability into the core of their concept. They have 13 locations in NYC and Long Island.

The Bareburger menu names which farms and producers supply their ingredients, and their meats in particular. Cards in the condiment buckets, and a section of their website, explain the meaning of terms like “organic,” “grass-fed,” and “pesticide free.” Bareburger also lists clearly which meats are organic, local, or sustainably raised. Even their interior décor has a nod to their sustainable roots, with salvaged or reclaimed barnwood used to construct the tables and wooden ceilings.

Yet Bareburger has embraced this shift towards sustainability and transparency in a way that does not reinvent the food itself, keeping themselves on the forefront of both comfort food and food policy.

Take Aways…Embracing sustainability and transparency in food sourcing can be an important factor in drawing guests to your enterprise in today’s environment. But doing so does not have to mean making your enterprise trendy or fleeting. By keeping the food familiar and the atmosphere warm and inviting, your enterprise becomes one that everyone can enjoy, regardless of their view on food policy.

Umami Burger: Arrival in New York with an Addictive Ingredient

Grub Street gets down and controversial with Adam Fleischman and his Umami Burger.  He explains he “wants New Yorkers to know that his L.A. Umami Burger empire—which has grown, in just four short years, from a $40,000 investment to a multimillion-dollar enterprise with madly popular, ever-multiplying outlets in San Francisco and Miami—isn’t a burger joint in the usual ho-hum, utilitarian way.

“Burger chains like Shake Shack are all designed the same,” he explains. “The food is all designed to taste the same. We don’t do that. Each of our restaurants has its own character. We want our customers to have a unique experience. We wanted to be a restaurant group, not a chain.”

Organic Avenue is now open in Chelsea

The store opened at 8 a.m. yesterday morning to many loyal patrons. Organic Avenue is best known for their cold-pressed juices and vegan meals.
Organic Avene is located on 8th Avenue and 21st Street

Banh Mi and Bubble Tea coming soon to Park Slope

Here’s Park Slope highlights that a new Vietnamese sandwich shop will be opening in the empty storefront that was previously owned by a invitations shop.
Banh Mi and Bubble Tea wil be located at 178 Lincoln Place near the corner of 7th Avenue