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Barberitos Southwestern Grille and Cantina

After preparation, staff bring ingredients to the hotline, which sits beneath a 12-foot exhaust hood and which guests first see when they arrive and get in line to order food. Barberitos staff use one charbroiler to sizzle beef and chicken and two griddles to prepare tofu and sauté vegetables. A wall-mounted salamander melts freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese onto nachos.

Also on the cookline, staff use a fryer to cook chips custom-made for Barberitos. They place the chips in a warmer that keeps them fresh during service.

Perpendicular to the hotline, a 10-gallon steam-jacketed kettle cooks black beans and pinto beans. A faucet hooks up to the top of the kettle so water can flow into the kettle with ease without requiring staff adjustments. Meanwhile, a rice cooker prepares Southwestern-style rice.

After cooking the beans and rice, staff place these items into a four-section hot well that keeps these menu staples warm during service periods. Continuous batch production prevents food from sitting in the wells for long periods.

Upon entering the restaurant and viewing the menu, customers proceed to the counter, which stands in front of the hotline. "Customers see all the ingredients, and that way they know they are fresh," Kitchens says. Customers tell a staff member which menu items (such as the type of tortillas, which stay warm in one of two steamers) or entrée (such as nachos, tacos, quesadillas and fajitas) they would like. Next, customers tell staff which beans or rice they prefer, and staff add it to their menu items. To assist customers with cold items, the unit's owner or shift manager takes over service and adds cheese, lettuce, salsa, guacamole or a variety of other toppings to the order.

Next, a cashier takes payment from customers and hands them house-made chips. If customers order one of the "7 under 7" menu options, which have seven grams of fat or less (mini chicken burrito, bare burrito, healthy salad, grilled chicken salad, guacamole salad, soft taco and fish taco), they receive a salad instead of chips.

Customers proceed to a service bar set up with at least two types of house-made salsa, along with serviceware, napkins and beverages. Customers either take out their orders — about 20 percent — or eat in-house.

Throughout each unit, LED and track lighting keep the environment bright.

Keeping staffing efficient is essential to Barberitos' success. The morning shift begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m.; the evening shift begins at 4 p.m. and ends at closing, which is usually 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. The morning shift takes responsibility for all the food production; the evening shift assumes cleaning responsibilities. In addition to two back-of-house prep staff members, each unit's staff includes a manager (often the owner), a shift leader, a grill person, a cashier and a floater. "We want the managers to mingle with customers so they experience great service and feel cared for," Kitchens says. "They'll often take the trays after customers finish their meal so they can speak with customers about their meal and their experience."