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The grill station includes a cook-and-hold oven and a steam table for holding certain side items, such as mashed potatoes, that staff prepare fresh throughout the day. It also includes a sauté range for searing items like tofu and tuna. Undercounter refrigerators and a convection oven round out the equipment battery. "When you keep the food very simple you get to keep the equipment simple because you don't have to ask it to do something it's not supposed to do," Gideon says.

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The chain's focus on "fine" as a defining feature of its food, service and facilities applies to its growth strategy, as well. "Until we can find the best franchisees and the best locations, we'll hold off or go after those in a more judicious way than just trying to rack up numbers," Blain says. "We're self-directed, so we can keep our pace of growth to the level of quality that we know we can consistently execute."

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She projects 50 stores will open over the next 5 years, with an additional 50 in some stage of development. While the bulk of growth will come through franchising, f2O will continue to develop company stores as well.

"We're an emerging brand, so having that credibility with franchisees is important," Blain says. "It's also important for ongoing R&D. And in some cases, we'll seed a market with company stores to secure A-plus locations until the right franchisee is identified."

Key Players

  • Founder and CEO: Pierre Panos
  • Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Chef: Jesse Gideon
  • Chief Development Officer: Jocelyn Blain
  • Architectural Design: Z-Space, Fort Lauderdale
  • Primary Food Distributor: Sysco Atlanta
  • Equipment and Smallwares: TriMark Century Concepts, Atlanta

Facts of Note

  • Ownership: QS America, Atlanta
  • Founded: 2006
  • No. of units: Six, with two more opening in December 2012
  • Growth projection: 50 stores open by 2017 with 50 more in development
  • Service model: Self-described as "fast fine"
  • Services: Dine-in, takeout, catering
  • Typical location: Mixed-use development ground floor (urban), strip center endcap or freestanding conversion (suburban)
  • Key expansion markets for 2013: Southeast, mid-Atlantic, lower Midwest
  • Target franchisee: Single- or multi-unit operator with proven restaurant industry and business management experience
  • Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for lunch/dinner restaurants; 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. for breakfast/lunch/dinner restaurants
  • Transactions per day: 500
  • Average check: $10.50
  • Unit Size: 2,500 to 3,000 square feet (traditional prototype); 500 to 800 square feet (nontraditional)
  • Kitchen Space: One-third of total unit space
  • Average unit cost for traditional units: $550,000 after landlord tenant improvement allowance
  • Equipment investment per unit: Approximately $220,000–245,000 (includes FF&E, signage and graphics, computer/POS system)
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