The team behind Israeli hummus and pita chain Dizengoff operates three different small-footprint concepts inside a massive new Whole Foods Market in Philadelphia.
The units are moneymakers, but adapting to fit into 150-square-foot stalls caused some headaches, says Steve Cook, partner with Michael Solomonov in Cook N Solo, the restaurant group behind Dizengoff, Federal Donuts and vegan falafel shop Goldie.
“It was an opportunity to get into a relationship with Whole Foods, and that was exciting because who knows where that could lead?” Cook says.
Running the kiosk-like spaces presented some logistical difficulties, Cook says. The restaurant stalls are located at the front of the Whole Foods, which is great for foot traffic, but less ideal for efficiency. Employees have had to adjust to pushing carts through the store to get to the dish room and prep area.
Dizengoff’s hummus and pita are made on-site, as are the fried chicken and doughnuts at Federal Donuts. But knowing that the kitchen isn’t up front, doughs and batters are made in a central kitchen before being trucked over to Whole Foods each day. For Cook, proper planning has been essential in making sure the grocery units have the correct amount of product.
The separate areas also impact staffing; there must always be enough employees to cover the front while others are away from the stall. Too, it’s easy for employees to feel isolated when working in a satellite location such as a supermarket, Cook says. That problem has improved now that Cook N Solo runs several kiosks in the Whole Foods and has a “critical mass” of people on the same team, he says. Most kiosk employees first train at the concepts’ other locations. “It’s not the easiest place to train because it’s so small,” he says. “You can’t just throw an extra body in there. People have to hit the ground running.”
Another challenge of operating in the grocery store is asserting brand identity in the midst of a larger brand, Cook says. “I wouldn’t want to rely on an establishment like this to build a brand,” he says. Each kiosk has five or six opportunities for branding, from signage to lighting and menu graphics. Whole Foods often posts chalkboard signs with the concepts’ specials throughout the store, Cook says. And they’ve discussed installing lighted exterior signs on the building, so passers-by will notice the restaurants in the evening.
Inside a 60,000-square-foot Whole Foods grocery store in Philadelphia
150 square feet per kiosk
Separate stalls for each concept; small seating area; each kiosk has five to six employees per day; pita-cooking oven; stove; fryer