For founder Ken Waagner, the two locations for e.a.t. spot in downtown Chicago ticked all the boxes: low build-out costs; convenient, walkable locations. The hitch: They were vacant newsstands.
To secure the 9-by-5-foot spaces, Waagner first had to convince the city and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “We had to get the city to change an existing vending law that prohibited selling prepared foods on the streets,” Waagner says. That led Chicago to develop an emerging business license that allows entrepreneurs to make locally produced food accessible to their communities while creating jobs.
Each kiosk is equipped with two refrigerators, an iPad-run POS system, a digital menu board and a cellphone. Waagner, a tech guy, worked with former Frontera Grill chef Shaw Lash to develop the menu of wraps, salads and snacks. All are prepared off-site and delivered daily during the hours of operation between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. “We are seeing solid growth and initial sales are encouraging,” says Waagner. “Our primary goal is to make our locations economically sustainable with the goal of expanding to more locations in 2015.” Two more e.a.t. spots are slated to open in Chicago this fall.