Text 28 Dec Refining the Brand

The Schnitz concept is approaching 3 years of development and a storefront at 177 1st Ave is upon us. We felt that with a significant capital investment in a brick & mortar, it would be wise to revisit our brand and its various touch points with customers. The logo, website and market signage were all developed cost effectively at the beginning. However, we know that in order to take the next step with a 7-day operation, we need to solidify the look and feel of Schnitz.

We reached out to the Tag Collective to help us take that next step. We originally connected with Becca Eley and Jason Punches at a Skillshare class they taught at their office. They have a lot of experience working with restaurant concept and we knew we wanted to work with them at some point. A couple years later we finally have the opportunity. Over the past few months we’ve been working with Tag to create a unique “brand experience” for the Schnitz customer. The goal is to create something more professional, scalable and with which the consumer can connect. Two companies we think do this exceptionally well are Starbucks and Baked by Melissa.  Whether or not you actually like their products, we respect the consistency every time you interact with their brand.

Over the next month, you will begin to see a new look and feel for Schnitz. We’re updating our logo, packaging, menus, loyalty cards, signage and website. Becca and Jason have developed a concept called Market Rebel. We want the concept to reflect our key attributes:

  • Personal/approachable
  • Educational
  • History/roots
  • Multi-cultural
  • Community

This is what we’re all about and it will be on display at 177 1st Ave and the markets. The photo below is the mood board for Market Rebel. There is much more to come.

It’s a new chapter and we’re excited to share it with all of you!

Text 18 Dec Get Your Schnitz Together!

It’s been a long time coming (3 years to be exact) but Schnitz is proud to announce that we are actively preparing to embark on a new challenge: opening and operating a storefront!

The first ever Schnitz restaurant will be located at 177 1st Avenue (southwest corner of 11th Street) and we expect to open around at the beginning of February. We felt the East Village was the perfect area of New York City to expand our brand and concept. It’s vibrant, young and has a strong community that we can build on. Furthermore, it’s home to a number of venerable food establishments including Momofuku and Veniero’s. It’s a pleasure to be in good company and we hope to continue to make the area an elite food destination in New York City.

So much is changing in our company and we are excited for this new chapter. We hope to tell you all about our work on the storefront as it presents challenges far greater and far riskier than we have ever faced while operating at the Smorgasburg every weekend. Here are just a few of the things we have been exposed to over the last couple months:

  1. Learning to work with architects, general contractors, electricians and plumbers
  2. POS systems
  3. Venting
  4. Liquor licenses
  5. In-store menu design and to-go packaging

As part of our storefront expansion, we’ll also be giving the Schnitz brand a face lift. Much more to come on this as we’re excited to present our new look to all of you!

We’d like to thank all our mentors, fellow vendors at Smorgasburg and close friends and family who have supported us on our journey. We would never have made it this far without you.

We look forward to seeing you at Schnitz on 1st Ave!

Text 31 Oct Swipely: The POS Discussion Continues

Speaking of point of sale (POS) systems. QSR Magazine recently posted an article about the company Swipely. Not sure if you folks have heard of Swipely but it appears they have come up with a progressive way to track sales and customer analytics and actually implement a loyalty program that works. It’s all based on your credit card.

Two thirds of Swipely’s customers are actually restaurants where credit card is overwhelmingly the most common form of payment. I believe greater than 75% of payments are completed by credit card in NYC restaurants. So naturally, it would be great to have a system that recognizes new and returning credit cards (i.e. customers) and keeps track of that data accordingly. It would seem to be a seamless way of obtaining this information.

At Schnitz, we’ve talked about how we use Square and for our size, it’s worked very well. It gives us the ability to keep track of our sales (not customers) and allows us to accept credit card. In a mobile environment, that’s not bad. We’ve tried to bridge the gap and link sales to specific customers by implementing Square’s loyalty program but it requires the customer to take action. They need to have a smart phone. They need to download the square app. They need to setup an account. And they need to remember to select the Schnitz business right before making a purchase of crunchy goodness (obviously they’re distracted ;). Of course there is a segment of the population who remember to do this but most people want to get credit for being a loyal customer without having to think about it. Linking everything to your credit card makes it all seamless. Now the customer can make purchases and receive credit without any special effort. It also uses the credit card to know who the customer is and keep track of whether they are new, returning and what purchases they make. It’s a beautiful thing.

We have not had first-hand experience with Swipely but they are certainly gaining a lot of traction in the market, especially among restaurants, and we’d like to give them a shot in the VERY near future. It integrates with existing POS systems like Micros, POSitouch, Breadcrumb and more. They also claim to keep track of social media data like reviews on Facebook and Yelp. If you use Swipely, please let us know about your experience. We’re very interested. It’s also still a mystery to us how exactly they make money.

If you want more information from the QSR Magazine article, click here.

Text 24 Sep Our Experience with a POS System

We first mentioned our point of sale (POS) system here in June of 2011. Square has proven to be invaluable for us for the first three years of our business. It’s amazing to think how much they’ve simplified and disrupted the world of POS’s. Most full scale restaurants have implemented systems like Aloha or Micros, as well as newer ones like Breadcrumb (which was purchased by Groupon) and Revel Systems

For our purposes, Square is ideal. The software is completely free. The only thing you need to invest in is an iPad or iPad mini for the front of house. We bought a used one with 3G service for $400 directly from Apple. I recommend buying the AppleCare warranty as well. The monthly data service is about $30 on top of that and you’ll need it because there’s no wifi at the markets (at least not yet). I must say, the iPad comes in handy in many ways. It’s a great investment for the business. 
Square provides robust data about all your transactions. It’s easy to see the most popular items and the hourly breakdown of your sales on a weekly and monthly basis. All of it can be downloaded to spreadsheets for further analysis. In addition, the transactions stream in real time so from a management perspective it’s easy to keep track of your business especially if you’re running multiple markets or events.
Square also has an easy to use interface to add and edit your items including descriptions and photos. You can even manage a loyalty program for customers who have the app. We attempted to do this but we have not been able to get it off the ground at the market. It’s a combination of promoting the opportunity more heavily and having a base of regular base of customers. The markets are attracting a lot of tourists these days and we’re only open on the weekends but I suspect a loyalty program will be more attractive in a daily store front setting.
Lastly, the market business is predominantly cash (as opposed to a store front). However, it’s great to offer our customers the option to purchase via credit card and any credit card for that matter (it’s a pet peeve when someone doesn’t accept American Express). All of the credit card payments are deposited the next business day into your bank account. It’s fairly seamless.
We haven’t found any reason to switch from Square but if any of you have advice with your POS system then we are open ears.
Text 13 Jul Introducing the Mrs. Child

It’s the beginning of July and that means its time to unveil a brand new Schnitz sandwich. We know we’re 1 week late but it was hard to let go of the Caesar Schnitz so we kept it going through the 4th of July.

The spotlight now turns to our newest sandwich…Mrs. Child. The Mrs. Child is a chicken schnitzel served with a celery root remoulade and Schnitz greens on our signature pretzel hero. The remoulade is unbelievable. Creamy, tangy and full of bold flavor. We think you’ll find it refreshing for the summer months.

Enjoy the brand new crunchiness and let us know what you think!

Text 1 Jun Introducing the Kale Caesar Sandwich!

This weekend is the start of June and that means a brand new Schnitz sandie! This month we’re unveiling our Kale Caesar. It’s chicken schnitzel with a kale Caesar salad (homemade Caesar dressing) topped with shaved parmesan and a sizzling fried egg. Of course, its served on our signature pretzel hero.

We’ve been anticipating the release of this sandwich since the winter. It’s a Schnitz team favorite. The combination of a hot egg with melted parmesan cheese and our delicious, homemade Caesar dressing is irresistible, trust us.

We’ll be making some operational changes to accommodate the new sandwich. We’re moving some of our bread over to the expo station in order to make room for an electric induction burner next to our fryer. The induction burner has room for two pans so we can cook two eggs simultaneously. The person responsible for the chicken fryer will also be responsible for the eggs. Here’s a link to an example induction burner. It’s pretty cool. We’re excited about adding another level of complexity to the operation and believe us when we say, “It’s worth it!”

We hope to see you at the Smrogasburg this weekend. Come try a Kale Caesar!

Text 18 May Steps to Purchasing a Van for the Markets

It’s been a long time coming but we’ve finally purchased a Schnitz van! For over two years we’ve been vending at markets in New York City by renting U-hauls and zipcars. Actually, we started by using passenger vehicles that we borrowed from family. That was a short-lived experiment after a handful of scratches and spills!

There are many considerations when purchasing a van. First I’ll fill you in on Schnitz’s specific requirements and then I’ll talk about general tips and precautions.

Budget/ROI: Before the van, we spent about $120/week on U-haul rentals. Over the course of the season, we would spend close to $4000 for transportation. We decided that our budget would be $5000 or below. While this is more than our annual spend, it’s a huge convenience for us operationally and as long as we can make the van last two seasons then we’ll have a good return on our investment even with repairs. In order to accommodate this budget, we targeted a 10-year old vehicle with about 100,000 miles. The vehicles we were looking at can typically last 200,000 miles. We also won’t be traveling far distances.

Vehicle Type: We searched for a Chevy Astro, a Ford E-150 or a Chevrolet Express 1500. The Ford was our last choice because we were told by our mechanic that Fords are not as reliable as Chevy in this category. He had many personal issues with Ford. The Chevrolet E-150 was our second choice. While it fits our needs, it’s a bit larger and makes parking a challenge. Our first choice was the Chevy Astro. It can handle heavy loads and its quite nimble. It was an ideal size for us.

The Search: It’s not easy to find this type of car in NYC. The surrounding areas and suburbs have more options but they are hard to get to (we don’t have normal cars to get around). We were extremely lucky that Yoni met someone at his day job who was looking to sell a 1998 Chevy Astro with 110,000 miles. A little older than what we wanted but right in our price range: $3250.

Mechanic: We brought the car for a thorough check-up at the mechanic. I highly recommend our mechanic. His name is Adrian. He’s located in Maspeth and can be reached at 718-416-4111. Adrian reviews the brakes, suspension, steering, tires and even test drives the car. It’s a phenomenal sanity check for $50. He assessed the work that needed to be done like taking out the seats and fixing the windshield but other than that it was good to go.

VIN check: We then ran a VIN check with autocheck.com and obtained a complete vehicle history report for $40. Thankfully, there was no history of any major accidents.

Inspection: We renewed the NY State inspection with our mechanic. It cost about $37. 

Insurance: Finally, insurance. This probably requires its own post but it was one of the more difficult decisions to research and understand. We had never purchased car insurance before and the policies and coverage limits were a black box to us. Most people recommended we use Geico because its cheap and we have a straightforward policy although I know that sharp brokers are extremely helpful for more complex commercial auto policies. I spoke with a rep at a major auto insurance carrier and he recommended we go with a small policy that gives us the bare minimum coverage due to our low mileage. This will certainly help to keep the commercial insurance costs down. Keep in mind, it’s a lot more expensive that personal auto insurance.

License plate: Last but not least, we took our proof of insurance and a bill of sale that we created by using Rocket Lawyer to the DMV. They gave us a new set of license plates on the spot in exchange for $500 in Uncle Sam’s pocket.

Without further ado, here she is!

Text 4 May Introducing the Mediterranean Schnitz Sandwich!

We promised everyone at the beginning of the season that we’d introduce new menu items. In April we featured the Grumpy Russian, our first stab at pork schnitzel and its been selling better and better every week.

This month we are featuring the Mediterranean. It’s a chicken schnitzel with a feta herb spread and a Galilee garden salad (grape tomatoes, cucumbers, preserved lemons, Israeli pickles, kalamata olives and peppadew peppers) served on a soft pretzel hero. It’s priced at $9. It’s insanely delicious.

The Mediterranean will be replacing The Yons which was our vegetarian option. This sandwich did not sell as well as the other three. We certainly plan to bring it back in the near future but we want to experiment with some new flavors and the data was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the Bamberg, Sweet Onion and Grumpy Russian on the menu. We have some ideas for how to boost The Yons’ popularity but it will have to wait.

We hope everyone enjoys the new offering!

Text 25 Apr Operating at the Market

Perfecting your operation is essential when you’re running a mobile business. There are a million and one small details that can save you and your staff time, energy and money. We’ve made a number of back of house (BOH) changes at Schnitz this season. Due to an uptick in volume and the introduction of new menu items, we have re-organized the stations and sandwich prep process in order to reduce the complexity during service and to make it easier on our staff.

One of our biggest changes came from the direction of our chef, Stephanie Alleyne. Last year we breaded the schnitzel during service which meant we had to bring additional supplies, specifically heavy cartons of buttermilk. It required the operator of the fryer to focus on both breading and frying which is too cumbersome when you’re dealing with a rush. The breading also did not stick particularly well to the meat and the fryer would take an additional 30 minutes to clean at the end of the day because it was full of crumbs.

Now all of the meat is breaded the night before and chilled on ice. Not only is it easier on our staff but the breading sticks to the meat beautifully. The product is better and we saved over an hour of labor during and after service with our cleanup.

The next big change was in the sandwich making process. Last year we would often prepare orders in batches. The issue with this approach is that some customers could wait 3 minutes and others could wait up to 15 minutes. The inconsistency was unacceptable. We now prepare each sandwich individually which not only improves the consistency of the sandwich but also the quality. We’ve also hired an expediter to keep track and push out the orders so the sandwich maker can focus on their position. 

Since there is now no need for a breading station, we have one station with a table to hold dozens of pretzel bread boxes. The next station is the sandwich making area and a station for the expediter. The new arrangement has honestly been a huge stress reliever for all of us. As with any restaurant, mobile or storefront, we highly recommend developing techniques that will help smooth your operation. The benefits are astounding.

Text 6 Apr Smorgasburg Menu - April
Smorgasburg season 3 starts tomorrow, er, I mean today! We’re way too excited to sleep. As promised, we’ll be featuring some new items as the season progresses so we’ll make a habit of posting the menu ahead of time. See our week 1 menu below. Some familiar items but also some new ones. Come out to Williamsburg tomorrow and let’s start the season off right!
  • Bamberg
Chicken schnitzel with caramelized onion mustard and pickled cucumbers, daikon, shallots & ginger served on a soft pretzel hero
  • Sweet Onion
Chicken schnitzel with roasted beets tzatziki and pickled vidalia onions, red onions, shallots & carrots served in an onion focaccia pocket
  • The Yons
Butternut squash and corn with honey sriracha sauce and a jicama scallion slaw served in a whole grain pocket
  • Grumpy Russian
Pork schnitzel with gorgonzola spread, Schnitz greens and pickled cherries served on a black baguette

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