I think its about time we let the world know about our efforts to acquire a deep fry. This has been no simple process. In fact, its been one of the most stressful, time consuming aspects of preparing for the launch of Schnitz. The three of us have extremely limited knowledge of restaurant equipment and we needed to acquire a heavy duty piece of equipment; not any old fryer would do. Our lives would have been much easier had we needed to purchase let’s say a counter top electrical fryer. An electrical fryer will have no issue reaching our desired temperature of 350 degrees and the first schnitzel will cook to a beautiful golden crisp. However, the minute we drop the second piece of chicken in the oil, the temperature will be too low because the first schnitzel reduced the temperature and it takes time to reheat back to 350 degrees. This would completely hamper our operation because we expect orders to come one after the other, whether in a food market setting or storefront, and the oil needs to remain constantly hot in order to cook the meat properly. We even thought about buying multiple fryers so that one reheats while the other is cooking but that wouldn’t be cost efficient and we’d need about 4 or 5 of them.
Electrical fryers range in price from $50-$350 depending on the size and are much easier to acquire. They are really best for the occasional order of fries when you have time to re-heat the oil.
We then started our online search for a large gas fryer. Large means that it can hold a 40 of 50 pound bath of oil and has a minimum BTU of 100,000. BTU’s stand for british thermal unit and describes power of heating and cooling systems, in this case, the strength of a fryer. Traditionally, its defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of liquid. For comparison, an electrical fryer typically has less than 50,000 BTU’s. Some brands include Cecilware, Avantco and Frymaster. Prices for new fryers ranged from $850-$1500. However an online purchase would result in additional shipping costs over $200 and would FAR surpass our budget. Ideally we wanted a used fryer ranging from 300-500.
We thought we struck gold when a vendor from the Smorgasburg that we met earlier in the summer was selling theirs. I got an email with a list of equipment for sale and responded within an hour. By the time they got back to me, the fryer had already been “accounted for”. Two weeks before our first market, we spent a Sunday on Bowery street in the lower east side of Manhattan. This area is packed with restaurant equipment stores. We got a lot of information while walking around and talking with shopkeepers but nothing was used and we simply didn’t feel it was necessary to make a large investment in a deep fry without having a storefront.
We then heard about Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn as a hot bed for restaurant equipment. We hopped in the car and headed over immediately. The second place we visited had two deep fry options. One was in complete shambles and the other was respectable. We bargained from 400 down to 300 thanks to Donna and loaded her up!
Later that night, Yoni and I took her to New Jersey for a deep cleansing. I have never participated in anything so vile and laborious but I have to say we did an amazing job. We removed what was probably years of grease accumulation and completely revived her.
Well, you’d think that was enough of an escapade but there’s one caveat. Most deep fryers, like the one we purchased are connected to a natural gas line in a commercial kitchen. However, since we’re a mobile business, we need a special type of deep fry: one that runs on propane gas from a tank much like you have connected to your grill. That’s a whole other headache.
To Be Continued…
Recap: Day 1 at the Markets
Saturday marked our first day ever serving schnitzel to the general public and it was a big success. We sold out of all the schnitz we prepared by 3pm! Without a doubt we can say that it was one of the most rewarding feelings to serve a product that you’ve been working extremely hard to develop. To now see people from all walks of life ordering your product and walking away with smiles is simply amazing.
It was beautiful morning and the three of us met at Hachi to load up the car with all the supplies and bring it over to the Hester Street Fair. We made one trip with the food and another with the deep fryer. There were a few missing items at the beginning but nothing critical that would halt service. The goal for our first weekend was to go through the motions and pay close attention to our operation so that we can make it as efficient and streamlined as possible. We simply wanted to introduce our product, collect feedback and fine tune the operation. We had 5 people behind the booth this past saturday: one person taking orders, one person frying, one person cooling and cutting, one person assembling and one person expediting the orders out to customers. We believe this is the right number of people in order to keep a smooth flow. Below are some of the major items we’ll be altering next time:
- Prepare a lot more food :-)
- Improve in pounding the meat to a consistent thickness
- Improve in removing the marinade from the schnitzel so the meat is not as wet before cooking.
- Additional cooling racks to hold breaded chicken.
- Rent a van to transport the materials. A regular SUV is not enough space and two trips in the morning is not feasable.
- Purchase a 75 or 100 quart cooler that can store large cambros full of marinated chicken. Our coolers were sufficient for the volume at the Hester Street Fair but not for the turn-out we’re expecting at the Smorgasburg.
- Ice packs to keep the ice colder for longer
- Bring change for large bills!
- Metal scraper to help clean the deep fry at the end of service
- We’re going to try holding the sandwich together with bamboo skewers. It may be best for presentation.
- Lastly, we’d like to have a to-go menu because it will be difficult to give everyone a full description of the food when a rush develops.
As expected, there were a lot of people that didn’t know what schnitzel was so we provided samples with our sauces for people to try. It definitely helped. The more people that try Schnitz, the happier we are. Overall, we learned so much this past weekend. If you were able to stop by and have suggestions, please let us know. Below are some great pictures for everyone to see.
Prior to the launch of Schnitz at food markets around NYC, we are going to bind some insurance for the company. I recommend general liability insurance at the bare minimum. This will cover you in the hypothetical situation that someone trips over our stand at the market and breaks a leg. We all know that people find a million and one reasons to sue in the U.S., so insure your business!
We’ve been working with an insurance agent to find the right coverage. It’s pretty easy to find an agent. A simple google search will do. We used Hanson & Ryan based in Totowa, NJ. They find policies for any type of business under the sun. Feel free to message us for additional contacts.
The agent first will collect all of the information about your business in a casual conversation. The questions are as follows:
- What industry are you in?
- Where is your place of business?
- Do you have employees? How many?
- What are your expected revenues?
- Do you own or operate a car for the business?
- What is the value of the equipment used for your business?
- Has this business been previously insured?
- And many more…
Once the requirements have been gathered, the agent will then go out into the market (not Hester!) and collect quotes from different insurance carriers. Now it’s not particularly easy to find an insurance company that’s clamoring to insure a a start-up business, let alone in the restaurant industry. Schnitz does not have much to its name at the moment. Plus, we enjoy using heavy duty deep fryers and sharp knives. Perfect!
First, we received quotes from surplus carries also know as non-admitted carriers. These insurance companies entertain non-standard policies and don’t have to follow state filing regulations. A great example of a carrier like this is Lloyds of London. For instance, they’ll insure an NBA player’s hands or Jennifer Lopez’s butt (I swear its true). Lloyd’s deals with policies worth millions; Schnitz is looking for something in the hundreds. Our agent then found a policy with a voluntary carrier. Voluntary carriers are less expensive because they have a packaged policy that follows state filing regulations. I think we were a bit lucky to find one.
Now, there are tons of optional components that you can choose for your policy depending on the nature of your business. Your insurance agent should be happy to fill you in on what everything means but remember, you don’t need to take everything. Keep in mind, your agent is incentivized to sell you a bigger policy because his cut is determined as a percentage of the premium you’ll end up paying so make sure it makes sense for your business. Today, I’ll highlight the coverage we felt was necessary for launching Schnitz in a food market environment. I’m sure we’ll revisit insurance as we expand the business and require additional coverage.
We purchased two components:
- General liability coverage for up to $1,000,000 for an “unnamed location” or “temporary places” business
- Addtional insured
Bullet one essentially means we’re covered up to a $1,000,000 if the Schnitz business is sued. We’ll be at different food markets every week so we’re considered an “unnamed location” or “temporary places” business in the insurance world. This would change if we had a physical location. Bullet two, additional insured, is great to have included in your policy if your business is mobile because organizations that are hosting vendors (i.e. Hester Street Fair, Smorgasburg, Dekalb Market, etc.) sometimes require that your insurance policy protect them from risks that arise from your conduct or operations. This sounded weird to me at first but it’s actually quite common. Please note, we specifically chose not to insure our equipment for this phase of the business (deep fryer, coolers, french mandolin, mixing bowls, tongs, etc.) because the minimum coverage is $10,000 and our equipment is worth under $2000. For our coverage, you can expect to have a $350-$550annual premium.
Some other types of insurance we will discuss in the future:
- Worker’s Compensation
- Inland Marine (equipment)
- Non-owned and hired automobile liability
- Employment Practices Liability
- Terrorism Coverage
Come join us at the Hester Street Fair this Saturday as we showcase schnitz for the first time! This vibrant market in the Lower East Side breeds a colorful variety of stands, ranging from vintage clothing to sweets to savory delights. For our opening act, we will be serving schnitzel in a sandwich filled with tasty surprises. It’s been seven months since our first blog post and we couldn’t be more excited to bring our product to the table!
I’m pleased to announce that Schnitz has received its first bit of media attention! A special thanks to Molly Yeh for writing a phenomenal post on the Forward’s blog, the Jew and the Carrot. The link is below for everyone to check out.
As we approach the date of our launch into the food markets, we are working hard to finalize the product we’re going to introduce. Our plan has always been to offer both a platter and a sandwich option. While we believe the platter will be more appealing and popular at a storefront, we have decided to finalize our sandwich option first. The environment at the food markets is very casual and most are picking up food and walking around. This type of setting is a lot more conducive to a sandwich. Most of the vendors offer finger food or items that can be consumed while standing. The platter may work but requiring customers to find a flat surface in order to use a fork and knife is a deterrent we want to avoid in the early stages.
This past weekend we held two tastings sessions for diverse focus groups to try the sandwich options. Below you will see a sample of the comment card we distributed for people to leave us feedback.
This was our first time hosting a tasting and we learned a lot! Fortunately, thanks to our chef Jordy, we were able to use the kitchen and dining space of a restaurant called Hachi which has not yet opened. I talked here about finding commercial kitchen space and you would have to look into one of these options for tastings and preparation. Hachi was actually the perfect setting to hold a tasting. We had place settings on the bar for our 9 guests each day (Saturday and Sunday) including tall glasses of ice water and lemon wedges for the schnitzel. Donna, Yoni and I arrived on site at about 10AM to begin learning with Jordy how to prepare the menu. Our goal is not only to get crucial feedback during this process but to ensure the product is simple to create.
During the first tasting we revealed the individual components of the sandwich first. So the participants got to rate chicken schnitzel with 2 different breadings, then 2 pickeled sides and 4 sauces (a final post on our menu to come soon). At the end we brought out two sandwiches with a combination of schnitzel, pickeled side, sauce and bread. After the first session, we went through all of the feedback and realized that it was difficult for people to discern what they were eating and what they liked in each sandwich because the ingredients they tasted individually at first were much different when combined in a sandwich. For this reason, we altered the format of the Sunday tasting to start the participants with three sandwich options (we figure its better to show more since this is really what we’re trying to perfect) and then taste the components of the sandwich individually. This way the participants can enjoy the sandwich as a whole and afterwards pick out the ingredients they liked/disliked and what components they’d like to see more or less of.
For our final tasting before the Hester Street fair on September 17th, we need to work on a few areas further:
- Improve the ratio of ingredients in the sandwich. A few of the participants complained about too much bread.
- Trial the entire sandwich eating experience. Does the sandwich hold together well? Does it drip? Is it filling? Does every bite have a consistent amount of ingredients?
- Trial more sandwich combinations and get more feedback. It’s important to see what people like about each sandwich.
If you’re interested in participating in our final tasting on Sunday, September 11, please e-mail email@example.com!
We are happy to release some exciting news today. We were officially accepted into the Hester Street Fair and will be launching Schnitz to the general public for the first time on Saturday, September 17! We’re extremely excited and absolutely cannot wait to show New York what we’ve been working on. The application process for the Hester Street Fair is pretty simple. We filled out the application here and waited for a response. In general the fairs are looking for the following criteria: Experience or connection to a restaurant business; Food handler’s license; Poof of commercial kitchen space (which we talked about here) so they know you’re not making food in your kitchen and bringing it over to the fair like a bake sale; And an interesting concept We were able to fulfill the loose requirements pretty easily as all three of us (especially Donna and Yoni) have restaurant working experience, Donna has a food handler’s license (Yoni and I are getting one too), proof of commericial kitchen is being done through Mark burger (more details on this to come), and of course, the concept is intriguing. :-) There is a lot to do before September 17th, most importantly finalizing the product. We will be hosting a couple of focus groups/tastings where a few select individuals will get the opportunity to sample the schnitzel and provide us with critical feedback on the menu we’ve been developing. We will be sending out a newsletter and registration form for those of you who would like to request to attend the tasting on Sunday, September 11. There will be a lot more details about how we conduct the tastings as well as our findings. Also, in the coming weeks I will be posting information about general business tasks we’ve had to complete such as: forming an LLC drafting an operating agreement selecting the appropriate insurance obtaining the proper licenses and permits Stay tuned!
The Logo Has Landed
We’ve finally put the finishing touches on our logo! We ran over 3 polls with 99designs and collected ratings and reviews from over 40 people. Thanks to everyone who gave us feedback. It means a lot to us. The three finalists received similar ratings (partially my fault for giving similar options) but after some minor touch-ups, above is the final logo!!!
The process of choosing a logo for a food business has been an interesting and mind-consuming experience. We’ve worked with two different graphic designers and received over 180 designs via the contest on 99designs. Many people have given us feedback along the way but what stood out as the most important point is: clarity. We experimented with lots of fonts and creative ideas like replacing the C of Schnitz with a lemon or replacing the dot of the i with a lemon drop but at the end of the day we don’t want to confuse people interpreting our logo. Schnitz is not always the easiest word to read and register in one’s mind. The name and spelling are unique, especially for those who are unfamiliar with schnitzel and it will certainly make people think. The last thing we want is for a potential customer to stumble as they read. Keep in mind, when Schnitz has a storefront, people need to be able to absorb the logo even as they drive by. For this reason, we chose a simple font that signals a modern, young twist on a classic food. Look at the logos forStarbucks or Chipotle. Both are super simple to read. There’s no confusion. As for the lemon wedge, well, the three of us are really into it. It’s the one thing we all love. Lemons will be served on the side of every order of schnitzel; they will be a part of our decor; and most importantly they elicit fresh and natural vibes. We want our customers to experience Schnitz and leave with a clean image in their mind and a delicious taste in their mouth. We hope this logo instills those feelings. As difficult as it is to design a logo, we will have plenty more opportunities to brand Schnitz in our storefront, food market stand, website, twitter page, and so on. So this is just the beginning!
For a start-up food business, it ain’t so easy locating an officially licensed commercial kitchen to use in developing a menu and preparing for events. We don’t have a store front so we need a place that has all the supplies at an affordable price which is not easy to do in New York City. Luckily, we are fotunate to have some resources available to us. The Thalia kitchen and Mark burger have been convenient meeting spots in the past which is how we were able to conduct our first tasting with Jordy. However, this is not the case for most restarateurs and it doesn’t really work for us either because the facilities are not available during normal hours when we need them.
So we started looking into commericial kitchen space for rent and have found a lot of interesting incubators. Incubators in the restaurant world have a mission of helping start-up food businesses grow into sustainable cash-generating companies. They run programs that let companies grow for the first 2-3 years without the cost of building and equipping their own commercial kitchen. Most start-up food enterprises begin in a home kitchen but once the final recipe is ready for the marketplace, the home kitchen becomes a liability. However, it is difficult to get the proper licensing from the state to manufacture and sell products made in a home kitchen so legally you have to find a professional kitchen.
This is where start-up incubators come in. The spaces offered by these kitchens legalize the activities of food entrepreneurs because they are professional spaces that can be inspected by insurance companies and the State Department of Agriculture and Markets. In addition, they come at affordable rates ($15-$20/hr) on a flexible time-share basis and they provide support in recipe development, product marketing and scaling your business. The spaces are typically equipped to handle most of the needs of bakers, caterers, cooks and food processors.
The following is a list of resources we are using for commercial kitchen space:
- Mi Kitchen Es Su Kitchen
- Hot Bread Kitchen
- Institute for Culinary Education (a little more expensive)
- Entrepreneur Space (partnering with Queens Economic Development Corporation and Mi Kitchen Es Su Kitchen)
- Neighborhood churches
- Senior centers
- Anywhere they have a licensed commercial kitchen!
Let us know if you have any more ideas!
Our logo contest is complete and we finished with 180 entries from over 30 unique designers in little over 10 days! We’re really pleased with our decision to crowd source the logo with 99designs. We got to see people’s different creative perspectives on our Schnitz concept. During the process, we gave feedback 56 times to help guide the designers in the right direction and we’ve narrowed it down to 3 options.
Using the link below, you are all free to rate and comment on the finalists from the winning designer SW7. We have had him/her (not sure!) prepare a few different variations. As you may have seen from the contest brief we posted about 10 days ago, our goal is to design a logo that is clean and serious yet young. All of the options have a lemon wedge resting on the side of the Z in Schnitz. We feel a lemon evokes a fresh image and its a good-looking pictorial for the logo. Of course, every schnitzel will be served with a lemon wedge on the side. Let me point out some of subtle differences while you evaluate. We would love your opinion as we fine-tune the design.
- Spacing of the letters
- The color of the lemon rind (brown vs. dark yellow vs green tint)
- Lemon drop over the ‘i’ in Schnitz (yes or no)
- Size of the lemon (bigger or smaller)
Rate them and be specific as you like in your comments. We’re going to take all things into consideration and choose a logo by the middle of next week!
Thanks in advance,
~The Schnitz team