No matter what the latest food trend may be, there’s always going to be a market for traditional, delicious comfort food and the Tom + Chee chain has capitalized on that. With almost 30 locations in 14 states, the chain serves up a selection of grilled cheese and other types of sandwiches, soups (including tomato, of course) and for something sweet, grilled cheese donuts.
Tom + Chee founder Corey Ward says that one of the reasons for the chain’s popularity is because “people view it as fun and new. There’s not a lot of people serving the style of sandwiches that we are,” he says. But these are more than just your run-of-the-mill diner sandwiches. “For the most part, everything is made in-house,” Ward says. “We’re roasting our own meats. All the soups are made in-store. We’re making all our dressings and spreads.”
When your restaurant is built on grilled cheese sandwiches, having the right griddle is more than just important – it’s key to a successful business, Ward says. As Tom + Chee expanded from a single location to multiple locations, various griddles were tested. “Relatively speaking,” Ward says, “it takes a long time to make a grilled cheese. You’re waiting for the cheese to melt. It can take four to five minutes. If there’s 40 grilled cheese coming in that you’ve got to make all at once, it starts to add up.” At one location, Ward says he had a four-foot grill. “That’s a lot of grill space and we were still having a really hard time keeping up with demand.”
Tom + Chee needed something that could produce their sandwiches faster yet still maintain the quality their customers had come to expect. The answer was the American Griddle Steam Griddle. “It drastically reduced our cooking time. It had taken between four and five minutes for a grilled cheese, and now it is closer to two minutes, which is awesome.” American Griddle’s patented Steam Shell technology delivers perfectly consistent temperatures across the full cooking surface. “On the old grills, there were hot spots and cool spots. You’d get burnt sandwiches. That doesn’t happen anymore.” And with the Steam Shell lid, food is cooked from the top and the bottom at the same time, which retains product moisture and cuts cooking time by up to 50 percent.
Thanks to the cooking speed of the American Griddle Steam Griddle, new possibilities are opening up for Tom + Chee. “We’ve been looking into going into ballparks and airports. In the airport, they told us that you have to serve a customer in 90 seconds. With our traditional grills, that was never going to happen,” Ward says.
The responsiveness of the American Griddle team also earns high marks from Corey Ward. “They’ve been really good to work with,” he says. “They’re really responsive to our franchisees. When we’re opening a store, our grills always get there when they need to get there. I would recommend them.”