Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Starwich Salads & Sandwiches


rosie11211
 Share

Recommended Posts

Has anyone heard about Starwich Salads and Sandwiches in NYC? I read about it in Crain’s. It seems to be a gourmet concept in quick casual dining. I checked out the website (www.starwich.com) and it says they will have over 100 ingredients to choose from! The first one is set to open this March. After looking at the website, it definitley doesn’t seem like the typical, boring sandwich shop. Check it out and let me know what you think or have heard already about Starwich.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From what I can tell on the website, they are nothing but a concept at this time.

So, rosie11211, how did you say you found out about them? They haven't even been written up yet in Nation's Restaurant News, and the story in Crains was last October 27th. What took you so long to tell us?

Edited by Suzanne F (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, when I went to www.starwich.com and I clicked at the top "contact" there is a button at the bottom to click to connect with a live operator. The person answered all my questions. The operator said that the first Starwich will be at the corner of 5th ave and 30th st. Let me know whate else you ask the operator and find out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

jenny - are you "uptown" or just uptight??? go to the website and connect with the live operator, ask him or her what the deal is with Starwich.... questions and answers give people information and knowledge, that's how communication works sweetie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

With little fanfare, the first Starwich store opened earlier this month at 525 West 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. By autumn, we can expect to see a Financial District store, another on the Upper West Side, and and outpost at JFK airport, followed by perhaps a dozen more in 2005.

I've been following the Starwich opening since the beginning of this year, because I've included the Starwich story in a chapter of my forthcoming book. I've spent quite a bit of time talking to the founders, corresponding with them by e-mail, reading corporate materials, and writing about Starwich. Today, however, was the first time I actually got to eat anything there. Thankfully, it was delicious; then again, months before Starwich opened, I knew it would be.

Starwich is a high-tech, culinarily ambitious, classy sandwich-and-salad endeavor. Customers will soon be issued "smart cards," which are small plastic credit-card-sized devices with an embedded computer chip (100 of them have been distributed for testing, and they'll be implemented for all customers soon). The Starwich smart card remembers your name, your three favorite sandwich combinations (right down to special requests like "extra mayo"), and your last ten orders. Customers can also soon access their profiles online at http://www.starwich.com, where they can add money to a virtual account that lets them pay for sandwiches with the smart card. In the course of writing my book, I was offered more free meals than I can count, yet the Starwich smart card was the freebie I wanted most.

Those smart cards will come in handy, because a customer has a lot of choice at Starwich: there are in the neighborhood of 130 ingredients available, including yellowfoot mushrooms, boneless short ribs, soft shell crabs, serrano ham, cheeses ranging from roncal to manchego to port salut, caramelized onions, lobster, fresh sashimi-grade tuna, pine nuts, and figs. Dressings include roasted garlic pesto, roasted pepper aioli, and sherry vinaigrette.

Will people want 130 ingredients? Certainly the choices are a bit overwhelming at first, and the fill-in-the-bubbles computer card you fill out for custom orders looks like it came from one of the Florida electoral districts in 2000. But I doubt it will take long for most people to internalize and appreciate the choices. Spiro Baltas, who along with Michael Ryan is one of the founders, points out: "Remember, prior to Starbuck’s 'Triple Shot Grande Skim Latte,' people only had the choice of regular or decaf."

The restaurants are designed like coffee-house lounges, with comfortable sofas and intimate places to sit, read, work, and think. Each Starwich store will be equipped with Wi-Fi wireless Internet, universal cellular phone chargers (I charged my LG phone today), and fax and photocopy machines. There are cool tunes on the stereo and classic films projected on the wall. The Daily Candy-subscribing crowd is young, hip, and very attractive.

On the service side, Starwich trains its staff according to the guidelines of The Roderick Institute of Hospitality -- a group that develops training plans for some of the world's top hotels. It includes concepts like a 10-foot "zone of hospitality" around every employee, and never saying no: "If we cannot accommodate the request, we will give alternative options, log the request and be better prepared tomorrow."

Most sandwiches and salads are $9. For that amount you get a choice of six items. There are a couple of free items (like mustard and mayo) and a few with surcharges (like lobster and soft-shell crabs). There are also a number of pre-selected sandwich combinations, the most expensive of which ($13) is the “Soft Shell Crab BLT” on toasted sourdough with pimento-rosemary aioli. It was delicious, with all the ingredients nice and warm (there is a real kitchen there; not just a sandwich assembly line), as was the most expensive ($14) salad, a Lobster Salad with steamed Jerusalem artichokes, yellowfoot mushrooms, baby red and green Romaine lettuce, and tomato-saffron coulis.

i10124.jpg

i10125.jpg

I'll be heading back to Starwich next week to taste more food and gather more impressions. For now, I just wanted to let you all know it's there and very much worth checking out.

i10031.jpg

i10032.jpg

Starwich, 525 West 42nd Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues, 212-736-9170, http://www.starwich.com

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could be cool and the next big thing. Could be a colossal failure.

I suspect the smart card thing will be the first to go as will a mega simplification of the menu the second its evident that normal human beings are too stupid to grok the concept, much like what happened with the original Craft. Smart cards suck. Force people to use them as part of your business model and you are asking for trouble. I've never seen a smart card implementation work yet. The technology isn't ready for prime time yet. Just ask the people at VISA, they've wasted an obscene amount of money researching it and they've deep sixed every attempt to integrate them as part of their product line.

130 ingredients to individually choose from is just too damnned much. It isnt going to work in the back of the house during a busy lunch hour in the middle of manhattan, especially if people are indecisive -- do you know a single one of these working girls that know what the hell they want to eat when they get to the counter? I sure don't. You expect them to read a handout on line so they can figure out the 6 things they want on their sandwich? 'Cause they sure as hell aren't going to be able to read from a list of 130 choices listed above the counter area. The ingredients need to be grouped in pre-set combos which can then be matched, otherwise you are going to have complete chaos.

Technology is supposed to facilitate the business process or the customer experience, its not supposed to make things more complicated for the purposes of being gee whiz. Good examples of technology in restaurants -- POS systems and wireless PDA's being used by waitstaff to streamline and speed up the ordering process. Computer-driven beverage dispensers in bar areas that automatically compute the proper serving size and allow for consistent pours so that cocktails come out exactly the same each time. Requiring customers to program and create debit smartcards so they can order a sandwich? Thats just dopey.

Oh, and obviously Starwich is so technologically advanced they don't realize that having a 100 percent flash site with stupid menus all over the place is tantamount to expecting people to spend about 5 seconds on your web site and then clicking the browser off with frustration and disgust. It's exactly what I did.

Oh and another thing, their online ordering system requires Internet Explorer. Any company that bets their business on the Microsoft software development ideology with ASP, Windows 2003 Server, IE, ActiveX, .Net, all that crap, is already pretty much admitting they don't have a clue considering all the recent security advisories relating to Microsoft products and the current trend toward Open Source being the preferred development platform for server side computing. But I knew this the second I saw an all-Flash site. Anyone who does a site in 100 percent flash and doesnt offer an HTML option is a nitwit.

Other than that, if the sandwiches are decent, I'll try them.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can "craft" your own sandwich. :laugh: Isn't that pretty much what Craft had to tone down?

I remember when Future Shock was published and Henry Ford's idea of an assembly line was declared no longer more efficient than one that offered cars in colors to order at the press of a button. I still question the ability to maintain that range of selections and have them all fresh tasting. The question is really do people want those choices and if the answer is that they'll choose their favorites and plug themselves into the computer, I share Jason's skepticism.

Most of all, I remember deciding to give up most of our department store credit cards because I liked the idea of just using one of two credit cards for everything. Of course then I couldn't pay my bills on line and it meant sending lots of checks to various sources, but I still don't think single outlet/use card is worth the space in my wallet. Either people are going to eat here once ot twice a month and don't want to have a special card, or they're going to eat here every other work day and will look forward to variety, in my opinion. Of course it's been noted that I am not very representative of the American consumer and particularly of the dining consumer and even less of those who just eat out, as opposed to dine out. :laugh:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting. I live down the street and have watched them set up for the past few weeks, wondering when they would open and what kind of place it would be. It never occurred to me that Starwich was a chain, I never heard of it before (but given what's been going on in the neighborhood, and in the entire city, I certainly should have guessed.) I spoke with someone in there the other day, and she said their hours (for now) are early morning until about 6 pm. She said no weeekends. I thought to myself, so who do you expect your customers to be? Most people are at work during the hours you'll be open. But I just took the menu and said thank you. (The menu is still scrunched up in my bag.)

The place looks very nice, all sleek and clean and modern. They have a huge screen up above the counter where you can watch the chefs work. (The woman I spoke with stressed that they have a chef, not just a person who makes sandwiches.) I think the screen looks cool, but in truth if they didn't have smoked glass counters, we'd be able to watch them make the sandwiches through the glass just like in every other place. :wacko: If they are open tomorrow (Saturday, so they probably won't be; how silly), I will give them a try. I'll see how well they do with a veggie order.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cakewalk, it's not a chain yet. This is the first one to open. And yes I think the idea is that they'll service a lot of corporate lunch orders from that location. There's a massive catering kitchen behind that store. And they do indeed have a chef. His name is Alex Schindler, formerly of Sciuscia in the Giraffe Hotel (he has also worked at Medi and is a Culinary Institute of America grad).

Bux, I don't think it's new to have choices at a sandwich shop. People are accustomed to specifying a lot of variables when ordering sandwiches. Starwich is taking that to another level, by offering an order of magnitude more choice and facilitating that with various labor-saving technologies. But it's not a paradigm shift the way Craft was at first. When people go to restaurants they're accustomed to ordering a completely composed dish. Craft forced people to build their own dishes. When people go to sandwich shops they're accustomed to creating their own sandwiches. Nonetheless, there is an entire menu full of pre-composed sandwiches at Starwich for those who don't wish to make choices.

Jason, I don't think anybody has ever lost much business by having a Web site that only works with Internet Explorer. The average person with a Windows PC on his or her office desk will be just fine with the Starwich site, and that's the target audience. I agree that the smart card is a gamble, but if it doesn't work out it doesn't really affect the business. I'm sure as a backup plan they can just move to a profile system that's linked to a credit card, a PIN, or whatever -- for all I know that's already worked out. They didn't get through multiple rounds of venture capital financing without addressing all these contingencies.

TatarsHat, there is some of that sense of wonder, similar to a kid's first experience of an Automat.

Fundamentally, the sandwiches and salads are delicious. I think you'll all agree, once you've tried them, that Starwich is operating a thick cut above the current upper crust of sandwich chains: it's substantially better than Cosi or Panera, even farther ahead of Quiznos, and it would be a joke even to compare it to Subway or Blimpie. The rest can only benefit the business: the market will either embrace the technology concepts, or the business will adapt to the market's preferences with other technologies. Meanwhile, there's nobody else in the marketplace who's even thinking at Starwich's level with this kind of vertically integrated approach to ordering (the Quiznos Q-Card system that's being tested in Colorado is primitive by comparison). Starwich is not one, but two generations ahead of the competition -- and that's a good place to be when you're working out the kinks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They didn't get through multiple rounds of venture capital financing without addressing all these contingencies.

Intelligence, foresight and contingency planning doth not a Venture Capitalist make. You should be well aware of that from the entire dot bomb implosion. There are plenty of VC firms that throw wads of money at companies for no goddamned good reason at all, and you know it. VC is all about risk taking. The whole point is they have a whole portfolio of companies to throw their money at on the good chance that one of them will succeed.

As to the Internet Explorer thing -- there's going to be a huge migration to Mozilla this year, and its already happening. On the server side it just doesnt make any sense to use Microsoft products for ecommerce anymore. I got tons of case studies to throw at you if you don't beleive me. I know, I consulted with a good many of the people that wrote them.

All I gotta say is if it takes them more than 3 minutes to prepare my sandwich to my specifications, the place aint gonna work. If the smartcard technology ends up making the response time slower than that, they're hosed. And don't even think about what will happen the first time their fancy schmancy POS system they rely on breaks down during the height of manhattan lunch hour. Utter chaos. The customers will be resorting to cannibalism and it will be mass hysteria, they will have to call in a SWAT team.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cakewalk, it's not a chain yet. This is the first one to open. And yes I think the idea is that they'll service a lot of corporate lunch orders from that location.

Coincidentally, we were just discussing Starwich a few days ago. Our whole office orders in every day and we were going to try it next week (after that we're moving out of the neighborhood). Do they deliver?

Sometimes When You Are Right, You Can Still Be Wrong. ~De La Vega

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do they deliver?

Delivery is a major part of the business. Whether the delivery mechanisms are up and running right now, I can't say, but the menu I got today does state that delivery is available.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The smart card may be questionable, but the 130 ingredients? That sounds outright stupid.

Most people won't appreciate the trouble they go through to maintain that amount of "stock" or the overhead necessary. If the result is a more expensive sandwich? Well, sure, it might work in MANHATTAN, a market bizarre enough to support a chain like Cosi--where people fool themselves into paying $12-$15 for a sandwich with 2 or 3 ingredients. But elsewhere? Nope. Okay, I admit Cosi is elsewhere... but it's always playing to a similar market. So maybe these guys are shooting for the same thing.

It helps, I suppose, that at least part of the 130 item list is apparently hot air. Dressings/sauces appear to be about a quarter of it, and while there are issues with storing those too, at least its probably the same issue over and over for each kind.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The New York City Market is a market of more contradictions, opposites and the irrational then any marketplace in the world.

To many of the contradictions are particular to the City, its Boroughs and Suburbs. The traditional succeeds longer then the improvisational IE; Katz's, 2nd Avenue, et all for "Pastrami Sandwiches', it's "Pizza Places" and even it's "Bars' and established or nouveau Restaurants all must be better then anywhere else to succeed.

What I question about "Starwich" is not the number of ingredients, plus the many other ingredients required to bring the items together consistently is more then reasonable to imagine that they are starting with more then the may be able to perform with at what must be high volume, high rent, high labor operations.

The pricing, items, selections are more geared for only a small percentage of Customers tastes in almost every neighborhood in NYC.

There may be 10/15% of the type of employees able to afford regular meals at a "Starwich". The majority of employees generally brown bag, employee lunch rooms, or have regular deliveries, but even more eat their lunch on the run from Carts or Fast Food Places and often go shopping or run errands.

Since I'm not on DSL it took much longer then I would regularly wait to download the site. I ran theses posting to my daughters office at 1 Battery Plaza with about 300 employees and the conclusion was that it's a "ELITIST" type of place, catering to a self important, gadget conscious market of pretend customers. It was a bit overwhelming and intimidating to most who were interested enough to check it out.

I hope that this has been put together in a manner to adapt to the market quickly, as they may have made the fatal mistake of not letting the "CUSTOMERS" evolve and let the business grow into what it will become. I hope that that haven't overlooked the most important consideration of the 2004 time frame that all to many business aren't doing anymore. "MAKE IT USER FRIENDLY".

I used to think this only applied to Computers, but today it's important to almost everything. I been involved with quite a few upscale attempts in the Seattle Market in many ways beginning similar to "Starwich" that haven't lasted more the 5 years or grown the way the speculators anticipated, I even have been told off more often then I care to remember for putting down on paper what eventually transpired. The only place that has kept it all together is still going strong in Texas because it 's quick to adapt, but never compromise with quality, nor is allowed to grow before it's ready.

I wish them well, and hope their dreams come true. It somehow makes me think of the "Tad's Steakhouse Restaurants" opening on 42nd Street, east of 5th Avenue the first attempt of a Restaurant with those new fangled "Microwave Ovens" on every table the Cooked/Heated up the Food based upon the weight of the plates put into the Microwave for preparation. It was ahead of it's time [hasn't come yet] innovative, food was pretty good for the price, and it failed even with the Cash Flow from all the packed Steak places. There have been far to many places that were great ideas, but just don't make succeed. I'll never know why so many Blah and worst places manage to stay afloat when serving CRAP! Even more places that served decent food for years, changed management, started using pumped, adulterated products and are still doing business selling salty, processed food, in place of the delicious simply prepared items they started with. Whats annoying is they actually pay more for the Junk then what the real thing costs, but can't stop the momentum.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...