About a month ago we reported about a restaurant opening in tribeca called The Elevens. They are seeking to raise $500 from 2000 people to become ‘seatholders’. Seatholders are not legal owners of the business but will receive preferred reservations, 25% off the bill each time they dine and a say in some of the operational matters. It’s one of the first truly crowd-funded restaurants in New York and they are doing it completely organically via theirwebsite.
I just wanted to give a quick update because not only have they already received commitments from 134 seatholders but they were recently featured in an article in the Dining section of the New York Times as “the most ambitious” crowdfunding plan. The founders of The Elevens are trying to build a tight-knit community around the restaurant. As opposed to previously crowdfunded projects (e.g. via Kickstarter) where the contributors do not know each other, seatholders at The Elevens will have a physical place to convene and socialize. We highly recommend checking out their progress.
Every week brings new surprises and this past week was no different. We picked up the U-Haul at 7AM and went over to our storage space on St. Marks Place to grab all the materials. We were just about finished loading the van when Matt (who’s been operating our deep fry for most weeks) appears. “What are you doing here so early??!” “I got some bad news guys. Someone called in sick at Mark and I need to work the morning shift.” Wow! We were already shortstaffed because Donna is on vacation. This was going to be interesting. We continued on our way to Brooklyn and called in the reserves. Thanks, once again, to Angelina Lopez for filling in at the front while Yoni and I worked the back. It would have been virtually impossible without you. The 3-person operation actually worked out quite well.
This was a great lesson learned for us though. We had never experienced any issues with employees up to this point but as you might expect, there’s a lot of turnover in the restaurant business so its a common problem. We’re only operating once a week; imagine the potential issues when you’re open 7 days a week! Thankfully the Schnitz concept does not require much training which is a huge plus so Angelina was handling our point of sale system and describing schnitz sandwiches in no time.
It was an unseasonably warm day in Williamsburg and the market was bustling with people. We sold out by 3pm with about 88 sandwiches. It’s been tough to estimate the correct amount of food to prepare. On one hand we don’t want to bring too much because we don’t want to waste food but at the same time we don’t want to bring too little and miss out on eager customers.
The new deep fry worked like a charm this past week. We never had to worry about it for even a second. It was marvelous. It’s got 90,000 BTU’s and had no problem keeping the temperature consistently hot. We’ll just bring some plyers next week to help attach the gas line more easily.
We also tested out a new item this past week, tea with nana (fresh mint), which replaced our cold beverage, limonana. Unfortunately, the sales did not work out too well. First, it was not as cold as we had expected. Second, we did not have a long enough extension cord to keep the percolator hot. Third, still trying to decide if tea goes well with schnitzel :) We’ll give it one more shot this coming weekend but we’ll have an extension cord this time.
This week we’re planning to finish with a bang. We’ll have close to 200 portions ready to go as we expect a beautiful day and nice turnout for the last Smorgasburg of the Fall! See you there.
Schnitz is proud to announce that we’ve been invited to vend at the Grub Street Food Festivalon Sunday, October 23, 2011. The festival is held at the same location as the Hester Street Market except there will be triple the vendors taking over the tennis courts next door. Last year saw an attendance of over 15,000 people!
Bark Hot Dogs
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck
Char No. 4
Fresh Ginger, Ginger Ale & Bao by Bruce Cost
Georgia’s Eastside BBQ
Kelvin Natural Slush Co.
La Sonrisa Empanadas
Mama O’s Premium Kimchee
Mimi & Coco
My Hero Cuisine
P&H Soda Co.
Pies ‘N Thighs
The Brindle Room
The Chibi Chef
The Shaved Ice Shop
White Belly Pizza
Wonder City Coffee and Donut Bar
We are really proud to be a part of this New York City affair. It’s going to be MASSIVE and we hope that you can make it out. Stay tuned for a Schnitz surprise!
The Schnitz team is back at it again tomorrow at the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We’ll be there from 10am to 5pm. We’ve just completed our prep work for the night with super fresh ingredients and we’ll be ready to serve you all day tomorrow!
Let’s Schnitz it up!
Recap: Round 4 at the Brooklyn Flea
This past weekend we switched our day of service from Saturday at the Smorgasburg to Sunday at the Brooklyn Flea due to the Yom Kippur holiday. While the Smorgasburg is a market exclusively for food vendors, the Brooklyn flea attracts all sorts of artsy stands for paintings, jewelry and furniture as well as delicious food. In fact, many of the usual Smorgasburg food fixtures like Cemitas, Bonchovie and Solber Pupusas were vending at the Brooklyn Flea. These vendors typically participate in both markets.
Unlike last weekend, the weather was dynamite. It was unseasonably warm at 85 degrees and bright blue skies. We basically got to experience the weather and volume for a typicalsummer day at the markets, except it was October. The flea was jam packed with people; it was almost overwhelming. The great part about that is we completely sold out of everything we brought to the market! And by everything I mean all our chicken schnitzel AND every single one of our beverages including four big batches of limonana. At about 3 o’clock we had a lineup for limonana 15-20 people deep. You may have thought we were a lemonade stand! We had to make several trips out to local convenience stores for more water, ice, mint and lemon juice (thanks so much to those who helped).
I’d like to identify some of the challenges of this past week and areas for improvement:
1. Signage. One of Schnitz’s biggest challenges is communicating what we sell! It sounds simple but its not easy. As of today, a potential customer walks by our booth and sees the sign “Schnitz” with a lemon wedge. They have absolutely no idea what we offer. Its not like walking by a mexican food stand which requires minimal explanation and is a common cuisine in New York that many love. Most people do not know what is schnitzel. For next week we plan to have 3 signs positioned at eye level for the customer as opposed to our chalkboard this past week which was on the floor leaning against our table. One sign will have a tag line, “Chicken with a twist”. The second sign will have a definition of schnitzel. The third sign will be our menu but we’re going to improve the descriptions. This should help to draw people closer.
2. Limonana. Due to the the ”inclement” weather this week. We realize how important it is for us to be prepared with our limonana drink. We need to start pre-portioning servings of water, lemon juice, mint and sugar so that we can make the drink quickly and, most important, keep the taste consistent. This past week we improved the drink by adding mint leaves into the glass prior to dispensing the liquid so to improve the presentation.
3. Samples. Serving samples is a great way to draw people closer to your stand. We’re a big fan of this at Schnitz especially because people need to learn about schnitzel and there’s no better way than tasting it. However, we are very attentive to cleanliness and health so its important to have toothpicks for each piece of schnitzel that we offer as a sample. It sends a positive message to the customer and keeps them safe.
4. Clean-up. One of our biggest challenges is having a smooth and efficient cleanup at the end of service. This is really important to us at Schnitz because we go through a long 36-hour stretch after a week of work (yes, we have day jobs) that runs from prepping the night before service and then waking up extremely early on the day of service. The day itself involves lots of heavy lifting and at times high levels of stress (especially because we’re still new to this). Last thing you want is a time consuming clean-up. This past week we invested in an XL Igloo cooler that not only houses all of our chicken but is then extremely useful for transporting dirty dishes back home. Next week we need to improve on our disposal of oil. We’re going to purchase a spout that extends out of the drain of the deep fry to easily funnel the dirty oil into a container of our choosing. Also, instead of moving the oil into a pot while its 350 degrees and then transfering into a larger container as we do today, we’re going to let it cool to about 200 degrees and put it right back into the jugs in which it was purchased for easy disposal. Thanks to Danny Lyu @cemitas for that tip.
5. Bread. We’ve been getting amazing compliments on our pretzel bread. It’s absolutely delicious and its a big eye-catcher. Next week we’ll be selling it for 2 dollars a roll with a sauce of your choosing! Come try it out.
This past weekend was a big step forward for us. One thing is for sure: it gets better every time. Stay tuned for some big announcements in the next few days. I’ll leave you with some fun photos from service this past week.
P.S. I forgot to mention we got all the way out to Williamsburg on Sunday and setup our stand only to realize we were missing our bread crumbs! Haha. That resulted in a 45 minute detour. Fortunately, no harm done :)
Due to the Yom Kippur holiday weekend, we will be vending at the Brooklyn Flea this Sunday. It’s the same venue and same time (10am - 5pm) as the Smorgasburg, just a different day.
Unlike Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea is not an all-food market. Taken from the Brooklyn Flea website, “[the flea] features hundreds of top vendors of antique and repurposed furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as a tightly curated selection of jewelry, art, and crafts by local artisans and designers, plus delicious fresh food.”
So come out tomorrow and enjoy a gorgeous day in Williamsburg on the river. There will be some new sights and sounds and as always, delicious schnitzel!
Life isn’t always so easy, especially in the food business. I’m sure many of you have gathered that already. While the Grub Street Food Festival two weeks ago was our most successful market, week 7 at the Smorgasburg proved to be our most dissapointing. Why you ask? Our fryer broke at the height of service. You might have thought that Adventures of the Deep Fryer Part 1 and Part 2 were over but the saga continued this past Saturday.
Just as we started our primary rush of the day, the temperature of the oil fell below 350 degrees and the fryer struggled mightily to return to an acceptable level. It was clear that something was wrong. None of us are mechanics but we suspect that the burners got severely clogged because the fire was unable to come out the top and heat the oil. Instead it was shooting out the bottom. Three of the four burners seemed to be problematic.
In the heat (or lack) of the moment, we decided to pack up and get to a restaurant equipment center on Bowery Street in Manhattan as soon as possible. By 2:45pm we were in the U-Haul and en route across the Williamsburg Bridge. We quickly found out it would cost more to repair the fryer than to buy a new one. As we had suspected, our connection to the propane tank was unconventional, to say the least. The people at Regent Restaurant Equipment had never seen such a setup.
We hastily made the decision to purchase a new fryer. Hard to explain why we didn’t initially proceed with a fryer like the one we just bought but it’s a lot easier to make investments after you’ve tested the concept for a few weeks than it is before actually launching. We also didn’t have any references for vendors like we got for Regent (thanks cemitas!) As they say, you live and you learn.
I can tell you this much: we’ll be sleeping a lot sounder at night this week. We’re really excited to fire up the new one next week. Take a look at the picture below. It’s a gorgoes setup. We have a proper propane connection with regulator; temperature controls so we don’t have to monitor a thermometer and turn the gas on and off; and wheels so we don’t have to lift it anymore! Our backs couldn’t be happier.
During this past week’s unfortunate events, we got some tips to maintain the life of your fryer:
- Make sure to cook on an even surface. The oil should be level.
- Don’t let liquid hit the controls on the inside of the fryer.
- Clean the fryer obessively after use.
So we’ll be more than ready for the final two weeks at Smorgasburg. Below you can see pics from our setup. Lookin’ forward!
I came across this very interesting blog post on Eater NY the other day. A restaurant in Tribeca called The Elevens is being built at 58 Lispenard Street. The founders, Scott Kester and David Lefkowitz, are essentially crowdsourcing the development of the restaurant. It has similar elements to the approach here at Schnitz but with a bit more of a full-service, high-class twist. They’ve tapped renowned food and beverage consultants, Daniel Patterson and Dale DeGroff, respectively.
Kester and Lefkowitz themselves have a lot of experience designing restuarants via their interior architecture and design firm, Constructive. They’ve done Sushi Samba, Lotus and others around the world. In addition to their experience they also hired the following firms to help. Almost seems impossible to fail with that lineup :)
Now what really sparked my interest is the way in which they are crowdfunding the business. They are running a sort of kickstarter campaign on their website where they are trying to enlist 2000 people to make a one-time $500 contribution to become what The Elevens calls a Seatholder. Seatholderships are available to anyone, but only until funding is complete. While the restaurant will also be open to non-seatholders, your investment gets you benefits like: a 25% discount on your bill, EVERY time; priority reservations; and access to exclusive events and tastings. There will even be aspects of the business that are put up for voting like music selection. If you think $500 is a lot of money, The Elevens’ website has a page about “doing the math”. Kester said they are trying to be completely transparent and in doing so are sharing their moodboard, a collection of images from various sources that have inspired the project.
It’s really refreshing to see this type of restaurant development. The owners have great taste and are implementing a beautiful, upscale concept. The website even exudes the restaurant’s inspiration of the 19th century temperance movement. It’s really well done. I’m going to try and reach out to Scott and David for their opinion on the process so far and see if they have any advice for Schnitz.
I think our process differs in a number of respects. First, it’s obviously a completely different cuisine, style of service and target market. Our restaurants would not compete. Second, I believe they are taking more of the crowdfunding approach which translates to “Have you ever wanted to own a restaurant?” as people can contribute money for a degree of ownership and a sense of belonging. I think the Schnitz approach erres more to the crowdsourcing approach which translates more to the following question: “Have you ever wanted to build a restaurant?” Owning and investing in a restaurant is one thing. Understanding all the components of creating a food business and orchestrating them into a well-oiled machine is another. Hopefully we can show the Schnitz community what that takes.
Best of luck to The Elevens. They have our full support. They already have 56 seatholders! Keep it going.
No snow in the forecast this weekend! We’re due for sunshine and 55 degrees tomorrow and we’ll be at Smorgasburg all day. If you haven’t had a chance to try Schnitz, come on down! Only 3 more weekends before we break for the winter months.
The market is located on North 7th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (on the water). For anyone traveling from Manhattan: take the L train to Bedford Ave. We’ll tweet pictures throughout the day. See you there!
Meat Mission to Stein’s
In our recap of week 1 at the Smorgasburg, we alluded to the fact that we are not reaching some of the order minimums with our purveyors. As a result, we have been refused delivery in some instances because its hard for the suppliers to justify the cost of doing business with us. Over the past month, we’ve had to drive out to some production plants to retrieve ingredients for our tastings and the food market. I did this with Tom Cat Bakery a few weeks back.
Well, the same thing happened this past Friday with our chicken meat which is supplied byStein Meat. To get an idea of their size, they deliver to some of the biggest food operations in New York City including Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. If you’re eating a hamburger at a New York baseball game, Stein Meat made the patty. Our measly order of two boxes of chicken was OK for the first couple weeks but this time we were forced to pick it up in Brooklyn (although you should know that most meat purveyors are actually based in the Bronx). So I took a 5AM ride over to their production and packaging plant to get our chicken legs.
The people working at Stein were right out of a movie. It was surreal. Everyone is wearing a white coat and hat and talking in a thick New York accent. Most have mustaches and one of the main butchers had an unlit cigar permanently lodged between his lips. The shift starts at 3AM and runs to noon. I met our representative Mark and he gave me a quick tour. The entire place is basically one big freezer with hanging cow carcasses and stacked boxes. They also have a large room for making burger patties. I’m not too sure I was allowed to take video but I got a few clips below. Check them out.
We’re happy with Stein meat but we may have to switch to a different purveyor that handles our small volume for the time being. I don’t think its feasible for us to take early morning trips to Brooklyn before rush hour every Friday.