In 2009, chef Jose Garces purchased a vacated space adjacent to Tinto, his high-end, Philadelphia-based eatery serving Basque tapas, and crafted plans to open an American-styled bar and restaurant.
Given the new spot’s limited size, Garces adopted an idea now gaining popularity across the restaurant world: He would use one kitchen to feed both restaurants, an opportunity for him to direct two revenue-producing eateries from one site.
Three years after the idea’s conception, both Tinto and Village Whiskey flourish, a relationship that motivated Garces to replicate the experience in 2011 with Distrito and Old Town Whiskey in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Indeed, the one kitchen-two restaurant model is earning traction in a capital-starved industry where entrepreneurship has refused to sleep.
By running two eateries from one kitchen, operators can achieve marketing benefits, cost savings, and efficiencies.
In Manassas, Virginia, Miguel Pires runs Carmello’s and Monza. The former is a high-end spot focusing on fresh, innovative Italian cuisine, while the latter features quick bites, pastas, and brick-oven pizza in a more casual setting. Pires calls the one kitchen-two restaurant set-up “the smartest move we ever made for our business.”
The distinct operations allow Pires to accommodate a diverse clientele. Whereas Carmello’s hosts guests enjoying special occasions, Monza attracts diners seeking an affordable everyday meal. The two concepts complement one another, each inviting trials and visits to the other.
The set-up also allows Pires to reduce food costs and waste. By ordering product for both restaurants and having delivery at one destination, he lessens delivery costs and boosts buying power. By having multiple uses for many products, Pires can use Monza to sell items that may have been languishing at Carmello’s.
“This also allows us to keep products as fresh as possible, which improves overall food quality,” Pires says.
In addition, Pires enjoys reduced labor costs by employing one head chef, one kitchen manager, and one bar manager to run both establishments.
“We have one person wear two hats,” he says, adding that he also gains greater flexibility with staff, many of whom can travel between the establishments as need dictates.
While Pires originally had a two-line kitchen set-up that allowed his head chef to work in the middle and support both sides, he dropped that arrangement after seeing labor inefficiencies. Now, the kitchen contains stations—pasta, sauté, cold appetizers, hot appetizers, salads, grill, and dessert—that show orders from both concepts on a split computer screen.
Even as one thinks about the kitchen in singular terms, it’s important to remember that each outlet has its own personality, a reality that demands added communication and coordination with and among staff.
And while Garces believes the one kitchen-two restaurant system works best when an operator takes two differentiated concepts and slims one of the menus to avoid handling two demanding concepts simultaneously, he acknowledges that the arrangement can produce some compelling and even unexpected synergies.
“If flavors cross over from one restaurant to the other, as long as they’re within the confines of that restaurant’s concept and cuisine, it’s usually a positive thing,” he says.
By Daniel P. Smith