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Daily Gullet Staff

A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Starwich

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<img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1122249024/gallery_29805_1195_5420.jpg">The Daily Gullet proudly presents the third of five exclusive excerpts from Steven Shaw's upcoming book, <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060737808/egulletcom-20">Turning the Tables: Restaurants from the Inside Out</a></i> (HarperCollins). Find part one here, and part two here. -The Editors.

Special to the Daily Gullet, by Steven Shaw

Security is tight at 630 Fifth Avenue, one of the mega office buildings in the Rockefeller Center complex. Since 9/11, visitors have had to wait in line, check in with security, show a drivers license, and carry a bar-coded visitor’s pass that gets scanned upon entry and departure. Every move is tracked. According to my security pass, I arrive at the headquarters of the Starwich Corporation at 9:58 A.M.

Starwich is a projected six weeks away from opening its first sandwich shops—four of them almost at once—in New York City. The business plan calls for quickly following those openings with a dozen additional New York stores, plus branches in Boston, Providence, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Sitting in their office, surrounded by experimental coffee-cup lids, electronic smart-cards, Starwich baseball caps, and piles of spreadsheets, Spiro Baltas (the CEO) and Michael Ryan (the president) tell me the Starwich story. They had the same kind of thought that so many food lovers have: Why can’t we get a decent sandwich anywhere? They wished for a quick, casual, convenient restaurant serving high-quality sandwichy, salady food in a comfortable setting at a reasonable price—like Subway, only better. But instead of just wishing, which is the stage at which I usually bow out of things, they actually did something about it.

By the time you read this book, there may be a Starwich sandwich shop on every major street corner and mall food court in America, right across from the Starbucks. The similarity in names is no coincidence: Starwich hopes to be the Starbucks of sandwiches and salads—if the company has its way, “Starwich will redefine the sandwich shop as Starbucks has redefined the coffee house.”

Or, Starwich may fail. Most new restaurants do. But I have a good feeling about these guys, because I like their coffee-cup lids. All good restaurants need to serve good food, but sometimes it’s the little non-food items that put them over the top.

The inadequacy of coffee-cup lids has been a pet peeve of mine for years. My wife, Ellen, and I between us must have a dozen pair of ruined trousers from coffee spills in the van—New York City is full of potholes and we put in a lot of time driving around exploring every nook and cranny of the city. The lids with the little oval-shaped holes don’t work because the coffee can fly right out through the hole if the van hits a pothole. The lids with the little flaps that peel and lock back don’t work for three reasons: I usually destroy the lid when separating the flap, the lock-back mechanism of the flap is prone to fail, and therefore the flap hits me in the nose while I drink, and all this requires so much attention that it’s impossible to drive safely while going through the machinations.

Starwich, in conjunction with the Solo cup company, has devised a solution: beneath this new specially designed lid is a rotating plastic disc insert. The lid has a hole, and the disc insert has a hole to match. A little lever-like toggle— almost like a sliding dimmer on a light switch—causes the insert to rotate back and forth. When the holes line up, you can drink. When the holes don’t line up, it’s like the cylinders of a lock falling into place: the coffee stays in the cup even if you hit a speed bump. It’s a totally reliable one-handed operation: the answer to my coffee-cup prayers. It’s the sort of innovation that gets a restaurant noticed, and earns repeat business. The coffee also needs to be good.

Bizarrely, I recently had learned that my grandfather Arthur Shaw was a pioneer of insulated coffee cups. But he never, the family history runs, figured out how to make the lids (his problem was that he tried to make the lids out of the same material as the cups). My mother even has his original shares of the now defunct Insul-Cup Corporation. I guess I come by my fixation honestly.

Baltas and Ryan vie for my attention as I spend about an hour playing obsessively with a coffee cup lid while fantasizing about how a successful Insul-Cup Corporation could have given me a life of gentlemanly leisure. “We can give you some of those to take with you,” they hint in an attempt to refocus me, “and over here we have our five corporate principles . . .” I’m not sure what those principles are, because when I left the corporate world I swore I’d never read another business plan, but the general idea is that Starwich is all about the details: making sandwiches and salads isn’t rocket science, but it needs to be done just so.

Starwich’s plan is to issue each customer a “smart card,” a small plastic credit card–sized device with an embedded computer chip. 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 access their profiles online, where they can add money to a virtual account that lets them pay for sandwiches with the smart card (if you add $50, you get $55 worth of credit).

Both gentlemen, now in their mid-thirties, are veteran restaurant employees and managers. They met when they both worked at BR Guest, Inc., one of New York’s largest and most successful restaurant groups—if you have ever been to New York City and dined at Blue Water Grill or Ruby Foo’s, you’ve been to a BR Guest restaurant. Over time, each revealed to the other a longstanding ambition to open a high-quality sandwich shop. Starwich is the result of the combination of their visions.

Just about the last thing a middle class parent wants to hear is that the eldest son has decided to work in a restaurant or hotel—and not as the chef or owner. It’s almost as bad as learning that he’s going to become a janitor or, worse, a food writer. “I was the black sheep in my family,” says Baltas. “No one in my family considered running restaurants a ‘real’ job.”

Yet many restaurants are multimillion-dollar businesses, as complex and “legitimate” as (and now it turns out as likely to stay in business as) the most cutting-edge computer companies. Baltas’s family came around after watching him orchestrate the operations of several large restaurants and restaurant groups. “It was an eye-opener,” he says with obvious triumph, “for my family to see that the restaurant industry is very much big business.”

Baltas’s first job out of college had him working as the morning front desk manager at a Marriott hotel near his home town of Boston. But, like me, he can’t stand getting up early in the morning. So he jumped on an opportunity to move into a management position at the hotel’s restaurant— at night. He was hooked.

<img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121034075/gallery_29805_1195_11679.jpg">Like many outsiders coming into The Life, Baltas was particularly surprised by the amount of technology and advanced business modeling behind a major restaurant operation. He threw himself into learning the computer systems and models and later parlayed his expertise into a position at La Familia, an Italian family-style restaurant mini-empire with two restaurants doing a combined $5 million a year in the Boston area. “They may have gotten more than they bargained for. I catapulted them into the twentieth century by installing computers, establishing service standards, and introducing promotions. They believed in me and encouraged me, but at first I know they were thinking, ‘who is this guy?’ ” Two years later, Baltas had transformed La Familia into a five-restaurant group generating $20 million in sales annually. He quickly became a sought-after restaurant industry consultant.

After a stint at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, where he learned the wine side of the business, Baltas came to New York in 1998 as restaurant and wine director of the legendary Tavern on the Green restaurant. Later, he worked for the Sbarro restaurant group (which, in addition to the shopping-mall Italian eateries it operates worldwide, also runs fine-dining restaurants in New York) and the BR Guest group. That’s where he met Michael Ryan.

At age sixteen, Ryan took his first job baking pizzas at a local pizzeria in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. He made pizzas there for seven years, paying his way through college in pursuit of a degree in advertising. In college, in addition to his pizza duties, he managed a fraternity-house kitchen and did stints around town as a waiter, cook, and assistant restaurant manager. He became a restaurant-business junkie—he never did pursue that career in advertising. Instead, he joined a small team of entrepreneurs to start up a fine-dining dinner cruise ship company called Odyssey Cruises in Chicago. This eight-hundred-passenger vessel had, in its first year, sales of over $13 million. In 1997, Ryan became regional operations director at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Founded by industry legend Rich Melman, this company built restaurants such as Shaw’s Crab House, Mity Nice Grill, and Vong Chicago, which together generate more than $25 million annually. Three years later, Ryan moved to New York City to become director of operations for BR Guest, with restaurants that collectively gross more than $100 million a year.

So why, with all this background at the high end of the industry, would Baltas and Ryan want to open a chain of sandwich shops? For one thing, sandwiches are currently a $150 billion business—one of the largest segments of the restaurant industry. There’s a lot more money in sandwiches than in fancy French restaurants. For another thing, both Baltas and Ryan felt something was missing— an empty niche existed in the restaurant business: a quickcasual, high-quality sandwich operation. And for still another thing, they themselves wanted a place to eat. “I was annoyed,” says Baltas, “that every time I wanted to take my wife and kids out for a quick bite I had to either overpay at a fancy restaurant or eat crap at a chain.”

But more important, I think, is an emerging trend: many of the best people in the business are focusing on the middle and lower ends of the market. For example, chef Tom Colicchio operates three highly successful upscale restaurants: Gramercy Tavern and Craft in Manhattan and Craftsteak in Las Vegas. Yet his most recent restaurant ventures have been sandwich shops called ’wichcraft (with locations in Manhattan and Las Vegas, and more planned). Alain Ducasse, arguably the world’s preeminent French chef, has lately focused his attention on a chain of casual eateries called Spoon. Gray Kunz and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, two of America’s top haute cuisine chefs, have collaborated on the Spice Market, a restaurant specializing in the street foods of Southeast Asia. As the American consumer becomes more savvy about food, the demand for better food at every level rises, and the sheer volume and cost effectiveness of casual dining— no maitre d’, no fine crystal, no lovebirds taking up a table for three hours—make it the logical new market for the best chefs and restaurateurs. After all, good food is good food. Excellence doesn’t have to come in a fancy package.

This isn’t the sort of business one starts with money borrowed from mom and dad. Starwich is a serious venture capital operation. In order to raise money, Baltas and Ryan needed to assemble a compelling proposal and shop it around to hundreds of venture capitalists. That they decided to undertake this effort in the middle of a full-blown recession, knowing full well that restaurant investments are considered some of the riskiest long shots in the venture capital universe, is a testament either to bravery, idealism, or insanity.

<img align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1122249024/gallery_29805_1195_16529.jpg">But eventually Baltas—who took the lead on making sales pitches to potential investors—got Starwich its first $50,000 check from an investor, and from there it was a steady crawl to the $2 million needed to open the first six Starwich stores. During that time, Baltas made ten or more pitches per week for nearly a year. Often during the early pitches, the larger, more experienced investors would ask Baltas questions to which he had no answers. “I didn’t even speak the language. But we locked ourselves in our office until we had the answers. Eventually, we had them all. We hope!”

In the end, though, Starwich’s success will depend on the answer to the question “Where should we go for dinner?” Or, in this case, lunch. For the business to work, a sufficient number of people will have to answer “Starwich” to that question. Starwich hopes that everybody will love its sandwiches, but it is specifically targeted at two groups: the “corporate consumer” and “young, newly settled couples.”

Still, Starwich will have to sell a lot of $9 sandwiches and salads to pay the rent, cover its employees’ salaries, and earn back several million dollars for its investors. “Sure, we’re taking a risk,” Baltas says. “But what’s the worst thing that can happen? We go back to our old jobs?”

Finally, the first Starwich store opens. On my first visit I tuck into the Soft-Shell Crab BLT and breathe a sigh of relief: it’s excellent, and the store is as comfortable and hospitable as the Starwich partners said it would be. I think Starwich is going to make it.

This is the third of five parts. Part one is here, and part two here.

<i>

Steven Shaw (aka <a href="http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showuser=1">Fat Guy</a>) is executive director of the eGullet Society. He has been known to do other things on occasion.

Photograph of the author by Ellen R. Shapiro.

Copyright 2005 Steven A. Shaw. Reprinted by kind permission of the author and HarperCollins Publishers.</i>

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Starwich’s plan is to issue each customer a “smart card,” a small plastic credit card–sized device with an embedded computer chip. 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 access their profiles online, where they can add money to a virtual account that lets them pay for sandwiches with the smart card (if you add $50, you get $55 worth of credit).

Nice work, dude. I worked on smart cards for several years at one of my day-jobs in Citibank. If it gives you some idea of the times, the entire Citibank internet group in NYC was maybe a dozen people. We did a big pilot of an "electronic purse" on the Upper West Side where people were storing cash on their smart ATM cards and using the stored value to make purchases at Fairway, Zabar's, etc. Steven, do you know if they're gone forward with their smart card program?

If anyone is interested, there is a good thread on Starwich Salads & Sandwiches in the NY Forum.

Current NYC locations of Starwich include:

153 East 53rd Street (at Lexington Avenue)

63 Wall Street (between Pearl Street and Exchange Place)

525 West 42nd Street (at Tenth Avenue)


--

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Of course, the problem with smart cards is that if every business uses them everybody will have to carry around a hundred different smart cards. So eventually there will have to be consolidation. I imagine what will (or at least should) happen is that the credit card companies will integrate smart-card-like functionality into their centralized systems, so that you can have, for example, all your Starwich profile data stored in a database that associates that information with your Visa card.

I don't know if Starwich has rolled out the smart cards yet, and at which locations. I know they didn't launch the smart cards at the same time they opened -- they were going to wait before implementing the technology. The smart card is heavily touted on the Starwich website, as is the elaborate online ordering system, but I don't know how much of that is up and running and how much is prospective.


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)

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Of course, the problem with smart cards is that if every business uses them everybody will have to carry around a hundred different smart cards. So eventually there will have to be consolidation. I imagine what will (or at least should) happen is that the credit card companies will integrate smart-card-like functionality into their centralized systems, so that you can have, for example, all your Starwich profile data stored in a database that associates that information with your Visa card.

Actually, the (supposed) beauty of smart cards is that the data is carried on the chip rather than in a centralized system. There was already the capability to carry multi-vendor information and different kinds of information on a smart card back when I was working on them, and I can only assume that there has been a great deal of progress in that area. We were already talking about putting financial information, cash and emergency medical information (among other things) on a single smart card at least 5 years ago. When you think about the kind of data a place like Starwich might like to put on the chip, it's really not very many bits of information.


--

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I've never understood the attraction of putting the information on the chip. It's makes so much more sense to me to put nothing on the card and everything on the centralized computer system, especially given the convenience of being able to access one's account, preferences, etc., online. But what do I know?


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)

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If I recall they did a test pilot here is Seattle (I think) and it didn’t really take off.

The issue I see that some people will bring up is:

1. If you keep it on the chip, eventually you’ll run out of space or it can be tampered with (my $5 credit is now $500 credit)

2. I too like the centralized database point because then if the card gets damaged your information isn’t gone.

Of course both kinds have privacy, security, tracking, concerns, even the frequent shopper cards that the grocery store; some fast food places too (Qdoba) use are under fire.

I do like the idea of having a card with “my sandwich” info on it though.

Take a look at their menu, it has a fresh look to it -

I hope they make a key chainn version it, so that I can add it to my "Track the shopper" key chain. (I have so many shopper cards that it takes up one key chain ring) :shock:

Jason

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I really enjoyed reading that, Fat Guy. The main question that came into my mind is, how is Starwich doing, businesswise?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Sort of elaborating on pan:

I see that three of those four projected restaurants are open. Was there not enough capital for the fourth, or some other obstacle?

How long have these three outlets been open?

How soon did the owners plan to expand up and down the East Coast?

Perhaps I should look at the Web site before posting what follows, but that hasn't stopped me before:

Philadelphia may prove a tough nut to crack, given the strong indigenous sandwich culture in this town, centered on the hoagie (="submarine sandwich" or "grinder" in many other locales) and the cheesesteak. However, since these sandwiches are more like those offered at Subway or Quiznos than what Starwich apparently envisions, and both of these two national chains have managed to establish a foothold in the land of Lee's Hoagie House and hundreds of really good indie shops, there may be an unserved market even here for Starwich to exploit.

Assuming the Starr Restaurant Organization (coming to New York soon) doesn't squawk over trademark infringement or some such. :wink:


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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The first store opened late last year, and the other two stores opened early this year, I think. I don't think there's a problem with capital. I think the holdup has been real estate. Starwich has been very picky about locations. My understanding is that two additional locations are to open in Manhattan within the next few months (Upper West Side and Midtown), and that Boston, Newark Liberty Airport and Dulles Airport are supposed to happen this winter. I don't know that there's a projected timeline for Philadelphia or Providence.

I don't know whether Philadelphia has a stronger indigenous sandwich culture than New York. Maybe it's more monolithic. My concern about the viability of Starwich in Philadelphia isn't so much the style as it is the price point. Then again, if they're planning to open smack in the middle of the white-collar professional area, they probably won't experience all that much resistance to $9 sandwiches.


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)

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Then again, if they're planning to open smack in the middle of the white-collar professional area, they probably won't experience all that much resistance to $9 sandwiches.

You may be right. The patisserie Miel is getting away with charging New York prices in Center City, so maybe an upscale sandwich shop could do the same.

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And with Starwich, I think you have a significant portion of sales coming from the catering and group-delivery end of things. So you're talking about offices where they've got ten people they need to feed in a conference room at lunchtime, and it's pretty much irrelevant to them whether it costs $150 or $250 to do that. They just want it to be simple.


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)

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I'm so glad to have found these three---wonderful and interesting, a chronicle of a part of the business just coming into being.

And familiar, somehow, with the name...I don't know where he pulled the number from, but my son has for years referred to Starbucks as "Nine Dollar Coffee."

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I get varying reactions when I tell people about Starwich's price point. Some folks are scandalized by the idea of a $9 sandwich, regardless of what's in it. Others think $9 for a sandwich made from top-quality ingredients is not only acceptable but also a good value. Then there are the folks who think in terms of bigger-is-better: "How big is it? If it's big like Carnegie's, then it's worth it." Having eaten quite a few Starwich sandwiches now, what I can say is this: if you compare apples to apples (in other words, we're not talking about cheesesteaks here) you're not going to find a better sandwich for less money, and it's not easy to find a better sandwich for more money.


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)

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Two comments:

<br><br>

First, on FG's piece, it's good 'literature' in the usual

sense of 'communication, interpretation of human experience,

emotion'. We get involved in a story.

<br><br>

But, literature puts no food on my table or in my belly. As

instructional material that would help me with food,

literature can't give me much. So, really, mostly I can't use

such literature. :wink:

<br><br>

One of FG's recent pieces described a really good sandwich and

mentioned the rye bread. Good. What would be terrific -- for

me much better than any literature about food -- would be some

really good instructional material, say, on eGCI, that would

show me how to make such bread. An alternative, also better

than any literature, would be just reviews of existing

commercial sources of such bread. :smile:

<br><br>

Second, I wish the Starwich entrepreneurs and their investors

well, but I suspect that their efforts illustrate an important

point: In a geographic analogy, when we go for new territory,

we have no maps, no guides to what is good, and it is really

easy to wander in various unproductive directions. In

contrast, when we stay with the 'tried and true', we don't

have to know all the reasons it works and, instead, just

observe that it does, which can be much easier. In some

fields, we have some good approaches to doing new things that

will be successful with high reliability. Alas, mostly the

restaurant business is not such a field.

<br><br>

Still, people do have to eat! And, the point that the

restaurant industry is large is correct and important. The

financial success of Starbuck's is impressive. So, it's

tempting to press ahead.

<br><br>

My reading is that Starwich is mostly (1) a Starbuck's for

sandwiches and salads instead of coffee and (2) modifies the

approach of Subway by bringing in influences from current

themes in high end white tablecloth restaurants. :hmmm:

<br><br>

My reactions: For (1), I would agree -- as Starbuck's got

many people to pay more for a better cup of coffee, Starwich

may be able to get many people to pay more for a better

sandwich or salad.

<br><br>

For (2), I sense a fundamental and serious mistake -- food

from current themes in high end white tablecloth restaurants

is not really what it at first glance can seem to be. To

explain: For a high end restaurant, people go heavily for the

total 'experience', a kind of theater. Such restaurants

commonly make heavy use of unusual and expensive ingredients,

and these attributes are part of the experience, the 'show'.

Bluntly, though, just on paper plates as carry-out -- that is,

just the food itself separated from the table setting, decor,

service, atmosphere, and the rest of the experience -- the

unusual and expensive ingredients do not promise to be better.

Sure, I would rather have a good chicken than a poor one, but

I would rather have nearly any (cooked) chicken than a piece

of raw tuna.

<br><br>

E.g., I have never eaten endive or pomegranate and am not sure

what they are; for juniper, well, we had a juniper bush

climbing the chimney once, and I understand that it is

important in gin, but I've nearly never tasted gin and have

never eaten juniper. I like shallots, but I would not know

what a shallot confit mousse was. I have no idea what frisee

is. I have made caramelized onions at times but do not know

what a caramelized onion compote would be. For an aioli, I

have seen some on Emeril and Mario but have never eaten or

made one. Port Salut I've enjoyed with Chambertin; without

Chambertin, on a sandwich I'd prefer Swiss. I ate soft shell

crabs once; I much prefer chicken. From having anything to do

with a place that served three sprout salad, I'd fear that the

guys at the office would question my good sense and manhood.

Some really contemptuous jokes should be too easy. :rolleyes:

<br><br>

To be more clear, if I were trying to court some pretty sweet

darling adorable precious young thing I hoped would be a

fantastic mother of my children and if it were clear that some

high end restaurant would impress her, then I would take her

even if they served lobster carpaccio and soft shell crabs on

confit of frisee, endive, pomegranate, and juniper compote.

I'd order a porterhouse steak. But, I wouldn't be caught dead

bringing confit compote glop back to the office for lunch. :wacko:

<br><br>

Simply put, (A) some high end restaurant total experience is

one thing; (B) a good sandwich for lunch is something else;

and it is a misunderstanding of (A) to think that the food

from there, separated from the rest of the experience, is

intrinsically better and would improve (B).

<br><br>

Better sandwiches should be possible. For some examples, I

would think of corned beef or pastrami from one of the best

New York City delis, BBQ from Memphis (Knoxville does well,

too), classic Philadelphia steak and cheese, thinly sliced

roast beef, or a grilled brat with sauerkraut. Heck, I find

Subway's Chicken Teriyaki to be good.

<br><br>

For a better salad, a good start tough to beat is just to make

the best possible Caesar salad. After that, good options are

really high quality ingredients in a chef's salad or an

Italian antipasto.

<br><br>

Much more should be possible, but for more I'd advise the

Starwich people to set aside themes and deliberately strange

ingredients from high end white tablecloth places and,

instead, just concentrate on good combinations of high quality

common ingredients. I'm not necessarily against truffle oil,

although I doubt I've ever had it. Pork loin with ginger and

apple flavors might be terrific.

<br><br>

From the Starwich pictures, the portions appear to be small,

about the same as a 6" sub at Subway but for 50% more than the

price of a 12" at Subway. So, Starwich would need $18 to

provide as much to eat as Subway does for $6.

<br><br>

I would advise the Starwich entrepreneurs on two general

lessons in how to do good new things reliably:

<br><br>

First, for the big new thing (clean sheet of paper) approach,

drawing on various sources, observations, inspirations,

experiences, expertise, etc., get some bright ideas. The

Starwich people have done a lot of this; good. Next,

understand that even the best looking such ideas are nearly

never any good. Sorry 'bout that. So, filtering and possibly

some additional development are needed. This filtering step

is badly neglected and doing it well is where the major

opportunity is. One way to get the filtering done is to have

a major culture working hard at it for something over 1000

years -- e.g., cooking in China. Another way is to have

wealthy people paying bright people to work hard for centuries

-- e.g., cooking in France. Other ways to do the filtering

can involve lots of well designed double blind experimental

trials, etc. In some fields, especially some parts of

technology, it can be much easier: We can use 'engineering'

fundamentals to show with high reliability that the bright

ideas will work as intended. If the intention clearly offers

a strong reason for the target customers to buy, then we are

well on our way. Alas, engineering is not nearly as powerful

as we could wish so that, net, only a few projects in only a

few fields can use this technique, and the restaurant business

is not one of the fields that can. Net, the big new thing

approach is tough for the restaurant business.

<br><br>

Second, for the little new thing (incremental) approach, start

with something that is known to be good. We may not fully

understand just why it's good, and that is a major advantage

over the big new thing approach. Have some bright ideas much

as before. From these ideas, make some little (incremental)

changes in what is known and then test, refine, and repeat.

The advantage is that we are never very far from something

known to be good. The disadvantage is that it can take many

steps to reach something that is both really new and much

better.

<br><br>

For Starwich, their ideas for atmosphere, environment,

experience, 'happening', and, possibly, in-group generation,

based on stuffed furniture is plenty novel but a bit of a

strain and an awkward juxtaposition for a sandwich and salad

shop and will be difficult to evaluate. Gee, guys, to someone

who mostly just wants a good fast lunch, various contrived

'social' assumptions can be insulting from being presumptive

and, possibly, transparently manipulative. :hmmm:

<br><br>

Cooking is not a field of hopeless shots in the dark; instead,

there are some techniques known to be promising. One of the

best is the recommended emphasis on sweet, sour, salt, and

pepper. We can add some of smoke, browning, onions, garlic,

ginger, mushrooms, wine, soy sauce. Especially for desserts,

we can emphasize butter, cream, fruits, nuts, vanilla,

chocolate, coffee. So, we get some reasons why a Caesar

salad, a Memphis BBQ sandwich, and chocolate ice box pie are

so good.

<br><br>

As it is so far, I believe I'd just prefer Subway to Starwich,

except when I was in Manhattan with some pretty sweet darling

adorable precious young thing and we needed a fast lunch

before an afternoon violin concert!

:smile:


Edited by project (log)

What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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That's a really interesting and well thought-out post, project.

I have to say I'm not so sure how often I'd want to pay $9 for a sandwich, considering that I can get a fantastic banh mi or banh mi gai (spelling?) for $3 in Chinatown and that I can get a lunch special at Teresa's for $7 -- cup of soup, complimentary bread, main dish with one side, iced tea. Etc. But having said that, you really owe it to yourself to try things like pomegranates. Endives are kind of nice, too -- a somewhat sweet, cabbage-heart-like thing.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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A few things that I think cut against the aforementioned reasoning:

1. A restaurant, to succeed, does not have to appeal to everyone. It needs to appeal to enough people so that it can make enough money to stay in business. The same is true of chains. You can find a thousand eGullet Society members to say how bad McDonald's is, yet McDonald's is probably the most successful restaurant chain in the history of the world. Likewise, no matter how successful Starwich is, you will find people whose preferences don't align with what Starwich is selling. Indeed, the attempt to appeal to everyone -- to be all things to all people -- can be a fatal flaw in a business plan. Instead, Starwich's strategy is extremely clear about its contemplated audience.

2. Starwich is not so much inventing as it is improving. All those generations of culinary education that European chefs have undergone? Starwich is taking advantage of that information. The premise of using top-quality ingredients is not a complex or radical one. It's just one that hasn't been applied all that well in the sandwich chain business. While there are some creative sandwiches on the short list of available predetermined sandwiches, those are most certainly not the emphasis. Rather, the emphasis is on the sandwiches people design themselves. So you might design a BLT for yourself, and what you could be sure of at Starwich is that it will be made with excellent B, L, T, bread and mayonnaise as opposed to the inferior ingredients you'd get at Quizno's. Thick-cut high-quality crispy bacon at Starwich; limp skinny soggy crap bacon at Quizno's. Likewise, real thick-sliced roast turkey breast at Starwich; processed crap turkey at Subway. Take your pick. Obviously, a large percentage of consumers will choose crap if there's more of it and it's cheaper. Starwich is simply hoping that some percentage -- enough for the company to make money -- will choose to pay a few dollars more for less and better.

3. So far, I'm pretty sure that 100% of Starwich doubters I've convinced to go to Starwich have begged forgiveness after tasting the sandwiches. They are excellent. I'm sure at some point someone who has actually gone to Starwich will tell me it sucks, but so far everybody has said that Starwich's sandwiches are superb. And I've taken some of those trained French chefs to Starwich. The reactions have been extremely positive. I've been so enthusiastic about the place since before it opened that my editor had to cut a whole bunch of the Starwich material from the manuscript because it would have been a whole chapter. I've pushed all my media contacts to go to Starwich, and am having the media preview party for my book there primarily because I want to get reporters in there to try the sandwiches so they'll write about it and spread the word. A place that inspires that kind of championing isn't likely to be all bad.

4. With respect to food literature versus instruction, both are available, but it's worth bearing in mind that food literature is an extremely small part of the culinary publishing whole. Nor is it a zero sum game: food literature can, at its best, cause more people to become interested in food, thus increasing the demand for cookbooks and other practical guides. The other thing I would point out is that, while I enjoy food literature for its own sake, I tried to write a book that would at once be entertaining and practical. The materials that were chosen for excerpts here are mostly literary in nature, but the book itself contains plenty of instructional material on how to get hard-to-get reservations, how to get better service, etc. -- advice that can improve one's dining experience at any restaurant above the level of a McDonald's.


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)

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For (2), I sense a fundamental and serious mistake -- food

from current themes in high end white tablecloth restaurants

is not really what it at first glance can seem to be.  To

explain:  For a high end restaurant, people go heavily for the

total 'experience', a kind of theater.  Such restaurants

commonly make heavy use of unusual and expensive ingredients,

and these attributes are part of the experience, the 'show'.

Bluntly, though, just on paper plates as carry-out -- that is,

just the food itself separated from the table setting, decor,

service, atmosphere, and the rest of the experience -- the

unusual and expensive ingredients do not promise to be better.

Sure, I would rather have a good chicken than a poor one, but

I would rather have nearly any (cooked) chicken than a piece

of raw tuna.

<br><br>

E.g., I have never eaten endive or pomegranate and am not sure

what they are; for juniper, well, we had a juniper bush

climbing the chimney once, and I understand that it is

important in gin, but I've nearly never tasted gin and have

never eaten juniper.  I like shallots, but I would not know

what a shallot confit mousse was.  I have no idea what frisee

is.  I have made caramelized onions at times but do not know

what a caramelized onion compote would be.  For an aioli, I

have seen some on Emeril and Mario but have never eaten or

made one.  Port Salut I've enjoyed with Chambertin; without

Chambertin, on a sandwich I'd prefer Swiss.  I ate soft shell

crabs once; I much prefer chicken.  From having anything to do

with a place that served three sprout salad, I'd fear that the

guys at the office would question my good sense and manhood.

Some really contemptuous jokes should be too easy. :rolleyes:

With all due respect, you are not the target market of starwich and all of your helpful suggestions below seem to be trying to make starwich into a sandwich shop of which you would go. The starwich people have a very clear vision about what sort of customer they want in their chains, one that differs from yours quite considerably. Both approaches could very well work but they have evidently decided their approach is going to work.

You seem to show a fundamental misunderstanding of just what their target market is and how they will behave. Sure, there are people who go to restaurants purely for the fancy white tablecloth, but some people genuinely like pomegranate and think that something like a caremalised onion compote would be at least worth trying. I don't think it's a mistake at all to try and cater to this crowd.


PS: I am a guy.

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Pan:

You wrote:

That's a really interesting and well thought-out post, project.

Thanks, but it was not "well" enough! It could have used a

few more revisions! :sad:

<br><br>

You compared with Chinese food. I agree that I might often

prefer a Chinese place. I omitted saying so because I was

trying to be 'fair' and stay within the target 'space' of

sandwich shops and because Chinese food is so different and

can be such severe competition! :wink:

<br><br>

Shalmanese:

You wrote:

Sure, there

are people who go to restaurants purely for the fancy white

tablecloth, but some people genuinely like pomegranate

and think that something like a caremalised onion compote

would be at least worth trying.

I've spent a small fortune in some of the best white

tablecloth restaurants in Washington, DC and in and near New

York City, from three Mobil stars to five. I drool over many

of the classic French dishes, especially with wines from a

little south of Macon up to a little south of Dijon. :biggrin:

<br><br>

I, too, believe that Starwich can be successful, but I believe

that the key will be just better quality as in heirloom

tomatoes. For pomegranate and caramelized onion compote, I

would predict that they would be permanently off the menu

within 24 months. :biggrin:

<br><br>

FG:

<br><br>

Good thinking; good writing. Gee, you could have been a good

lawyer -- ever consider that? :raz::smile:

<br><br>

We're not far apart.

<br><br>

In your point 1., sure, I agree although would have some

question about the last part:

Instead, Starwich's strategy is extremely clear about

its contemplated audience.

Maybe I do not clearly understand what their "contemplated

audience" is, beyond just relatively affluent people who want

a good sandwich, quickly, for lunch. Maybe the short

description is the Starbuck's customers. I did say:

<br><br>

"... Starwich may be able to get many people to pay more for

a better sandwich or salad."

<br><br>

and believe that this would be a very wide target audience.

<br><br>

I gave my main concern as:

<br><br>

"(2) modifies the approach of Subway by bringing in influences

from current themes in high end white tablecloth restaurants."

<br><br>

I sense that what Starwich is doing is more specific than just

your

<br><br>

"All those generations of culinary education that European

chefs have undergone ....".

<br><br>

and fear that some of what Starwich is doing -- e.g., raw

seafood, three sprouts -- may turn off too many people. I

will concede that these things will be getting them a lot of

publicity now and could easily be changed later.

<br><br>

For your point 2., especially with "2. Starwich is not so

much inventing as it is improving.", yes, it appears that in

some respects they are -- e.g., they are starting with

sandwiches and adding heirloom tomatoes. However, it appears

that in some other significant respects they are using what I

called the big new thing (clean sheet of paper) approach,

which is more risky -- e.g., the stuffed chairs, raw tuna, and

relatively high dollars per ounce of the food served.

<br><br>

For your

<br><br>

"The premise of using top-quality ingredients is not a complex

or radical one."

<br><br>

I agree fully and did mention in at least three places that I

would appreciate high quality ingredients.

<br><br>

For

<br><br>

"While there are some creative sandwiches on the short list of

available predetermined sandwiches, those are most certainly

not the emphasis."

<br><br>

:huh:

That would be good news: From the eG discussions and the

Starwich Web site, I got the impression that the main emphasis

was the "creative sandwiches". Starwich may want to adjust

their Web site. :hmmm:

<br><br>

For your 3., e.g., "They are excellent.", while I would not

want to eat any raw seafood and would not rush to get frisee,

endive, pomegranate, juniper, or three sprouts, I was careful

not to claim that all of the food tasted bad! :wink:

Good work with

pork, apple, and ginger might be "terrific"; good work with

pomegranate and juniper might be, too. 'Heirloom' tomatoes,

maybe picked by hand, handled like eggs -- they should be

terrific.

<br><br>

But, to me, emphasis on frisee, endive, pomegranate, juniper,

sprouts, compote, confit -- even if they do taste good --

seems more a matter of cultural and

social class food fad and style than just what would taste

good, e.g., from "All those generations of culinary education

that European chefs have undergone ....". I sense I'm being

patronized and manipulated, being expected to fall for the

Starwich people making some simple and somewhat insulting

presumptions. I'm all for food that tastes good; I don't want

to join some fad social group to get it. :rolleyes:

<br><br>

But, there's no joke: As in E. Fromm (extra credit for

knowing the source), one of the stronger human motivations is

"membership in a group". If people can spend their lunch

feeling that they have membership in a group they like -- if

only from the compote, frisee, and stuffed chairs -- just by

paying more for a sandwich, maybe they will! :rolleyes:

Since I believe

that such group membership is stronger for women than men, I

do get the impression that Starwich is intended to be a bit

effeminate. :rolleyes:

<br><br>

Broadly, in locations with a lot of affluent people, is it

possible to be successful by serving better food than Subway?

I would think definitely yes and that the Starwich

entrepreneurs, with their track records, should be able to do

so.

<br><br>

The venture capital people strongly emphasize "defensible"

advantages. These are tough to get in a chain of hundreds of

sandwich shops. Partly the venture people are correct: Such

an advantage can be valuable, e.g., the early Xerox patents on

photocopying. Partly the venture people are wrong: Make a

McDonald's hamburger? Easy enough. Beat McDonald's? Tough.

Many have tried.

<br><br>

When advantages are valuable but not defended, then they can

get copied.

<br><br>

Another lesson is 'market segmentation': Subway has been

successful. Apparently now some new competitors want to

'segment' the Subway 'market'. But, the 'segmentation' means

seem to me to be weak.

<br><br>

Perhaps over the next year or two we will see:

<UL>

<LI>

Starwich getting rid of the stuffed chairs, frisee, and endive

(AHN-deeve?) and including sliced roast beef ('au jus'?),

Texas BBQ beef brisket, Tennessee pulled pork, oriental pork,

ratatouille sauce and related sandwich ingredients, 'see and

point' ordering, Caesar salad, freshly baked hero rolls, still

warm from the oven, more ounces of sandwich per dollar, some

soups, and some desserts.

<LI>

Subway including aioli and more sauces and sliced to order

roast beef, turkey, and pork loin, braised chunks of pork

shoulder, boneless braised beef short ribs, and more yeast

flavor in their freshly baked breads.

</UL>

Maybe the 'elevator pitch' of the Starwich team went: "We are

Subway for the Starbuck's customers -- are doing to Subway

what Starbuck's did to everyone else serving coffee. Subway,

Starbuck's, and the Starwich team are all proven. Since only

a small fraction of the Subway customers are Starbuck's

customers, Subway can't respond without losing far too many of

their current customers. Besides, we can sell good coffee,

too. It's a slam dunk."

<br><br>

I'm impressed until they drift into the stuff about raw tuna

on frisee on sofas! Again, the emphasis on good food from

good combinations of high quality common ingredients I like;

borrowing heavily from fads in high end white tablecloth

restaurants I believe is not, actually, a path to good food

and will fail. For the sofas, maybe soon we will see those

nearly new on eBay!

<br><br>

Gee, wouldn't be the first time I missed the main point.

Maybe "Do you come here often? Look, my endive is bigger than

your endive. Have you tried the frisee with aioli -- it's

irresistibly sensual. Just a minute while I use the WiMax here

to short 100 cars of pork bellies. Done. I see the sofa is

available -- want to join me? My Ferrari's outside; like to

take a spin out to Greenwich this afternoon? We can be back

in time for dinner at ADNY."

<br><br>

A really good eGCI installment on aioli could be better than

all the rest of this! Jack Lang, you have good olive oil and

fresh garlic, basil, and cilantro over there you could

experiment with? For the pork bellies, well, we start with a

stochastic process expressed as a sum of a martingale and a

process adapted to the history ....


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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Starwich getting rid of the stuffed chairs, frisee, and endive

(AHN-deeve?) and including sliced roast beef ('au jus'?),

Texas BBQ beef brisket, Tennessee pulled pork, oriental pork,

ratatouille sauce and related sandwich ingredients, 'see and

point' ordering, Caesar salad, freshly baked hero rolls, still

warm from the oven, more ounces of sandwich per dollar, some

soups, and some desserts.

Yes, but as I said earlier, then it would be a different restaurant. Undoubtably a popular one if done right, but not the restaurant that starwich want to build. Obviously, you would prefer a good roast beef sandwich to one piled high with AHN-dive. But just as obviously, your palate is completely unique in the world and there are other people who have different taste preferences to you.

I don't exactly see what your hostility is to "frisee, endive, pomegranate, juniper, or three sprouts". My local foofy sandwich joint, catering to local college students has a raw fish sandwich on it's menu. *I* regularly use frisee and sprouts in my sandwiches because it has an excellent texture and I like how it can balance out the richness of some of my other toppings. I admit i don't quite see the logistics of putting pomegranate on a sandwich, unless they are talking about pomegranate molasses or something similar. And I've never tasted juniper before so I don't know how that would work. But I can guarentee you that there is at least one person out there who would not bat an eyelid at a salad containing frisee, endive, sprouts, raw fish or any of the other stuff you are railing against. Presumably, and hopefully for starwich, there is significantly more than 1 person, enough to build a business upon.


PS: I am a guy.

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Yes, but as I said earlier, then it would be a different

restaurant.

I would not really be intending a "different"

restaurant:

<br><br>

Maybe we can agree that the Starwich goal is close to a Subway

for Starbuck's customers where the main point is just better

sandwiches and salads.

Next we can likely agree that the main path to "better" is

higher quality ingredients such as heirloom tomatoes.

All that I would applaud, and I would not be

intending anything "different".

<br><br>

For the sandwiches I listed, e.g., pulled pork, can set those

aside as from someone with poor skills at cooking. [i'm

trying to improve my skills; I come to eG to get cooking

instruction to improve those skills, not to get 'literature'!]

The sandwiches I listed might well not be successful for a

sandwich shop and certainly are not nearly the only thing that

would be successful or that I would like.

I don't exactly see

what your hostility is to "frisee, endive, pomegranate,

juniper, or three sprouts".

My "hostility" should be easy enough to explain; I will try:

<br><br>

With these ingredients and some of the others along with the

emphasis on confit, compote, and aioli, my 'manipulation'

alarms are sounding loud and clear. I sense that the Starwich

people are assuming that I seek to be a person of 'style and

fashion', from watching Emeril and Mario and/or having eaten

recently at some 'trendy' high end restaurants, have heard

about these ingredients and techniques,

believe that having lunch with these

will let me achieve the 'style and fashion' I seek

and, likely also, meet other such people. That is, I sense

that the real purpose of these ingredients and techniques is

not food at all but just 'style and fashion'.

<br><br>

There is a big world of style and fashion out there, I'm told,

especially on 7th Avenue in New York City. Also, there is a

lot on these subjects in the New York Times. New York City is

big on style and fashion. It is in the nature of the world

that by a wide margin

the people most heavily interested in style and fashion

are women. However, I'm a man.

<br><br>

For a little more, I'm a little like the guy in the first

movie 'The Parent Trap' who said about some Italian dish: "You

know I hate that glop.". Net, the reason he hated it was that

he sensed that he was being asked to be emotional in an

effeminate way instead of rational in a masculine way. The

battle between the emotional and the rational is not nearly

new. These are solid old American male attitudes. Look at

the classic movies about the American West: The men wear

practical blue jeans (originally made for the

California gold miners)

made from canvas (originally designed

to make tough sails on British ships)

and brass rivets; the

women wear long full flowing decorated dresses made from soft

broad cloth. Swap costumes and get howls of laughter from any

audience!

<br><br>

So, broadly, like many men, I like functionality and utility;

like some men, for myself, I hate 'style and fashion' and find

any presumption that I would like them to be insulting and

offensive!

<br><br>

To be really clear, many men will look at Starwich and call it

"chick food".

<br><br>

But, I do like good food -- nearly everyone does! I concede

that some 'compote' might taste good; some aioli has promise

of tasting great. If the real goal is just food that tastes

good, okay. But if the real goal is just 'style and fashion',

then I would feel like a manipulated fool paying more or even

eating there at all.

<br><br>

The 'face value' idea that the Starwich frisee, etc. was

selected just because it tastes good is naively simplistic.

Instead, it is nearly universal that companies selling to

'consumers' will go to extreme lengths to create a special

'image' in the minds of their customers. I am 100% confident

that the entrepreneurs and investors behind Starwich thought

long and hard about 'image'. This matter of image is both

very important and also very tricky stuff.

<br><br>

For why such images can be powerful, we can mention three

facts:

<UL>

<LI>

First, for some curious reason, humans can value a vicarious

experience nearly as much as a real one. This one point is

the main support for essentially all of Hollywood, fiction in

'literature', and most of the rest of the media.

<LI>

Second, people are highly motivated to belong to desirable

groups.

<LI>

Third, things that are new and 'in fashion' are especially

important to women.

</UL>

So, pick something desirable -- e.g., being rich, smart,

powerful, secure, strong, thin, young, romantically

attractive, on the 'A-list' -- and then sell something that

will let the customer get a vicarious experience of that

desirable something. In particular, pick a desirable group

and then let the customer get a vicarious experience of

belonging to that group. So, the group can be people who go

to trendy high end restaurants, and then sell that vicarious

experience, along with a sandwich, for $9. 'Chick food'!

But, then, maybe a good place to pick up chicks, right?

<br><br>

If I believed that the $9 was just for the sandwich, then I

would be even more gullible, literal minded, naive, and

manipulatable than I was in my early years!

<br><br>

If you are convinced that the frisee is in there just because

it helps to make a really good sandwich, then I have this

bridge not far from one of the Starwich shops you would really

be interested in!

<br><br>

To be still more clear, I'm convinced that, even if the frisee

is good, that's not why it was selected by Starwich!

Heck, they might even try to sell raw fish, if they thought

that it would have the right image!

<br><br>

Picking images is difficult and risky. The methods I have

seen used are mostly just intuitive and not promising.

<br><br>

My guess is that Starwich has not identified a good 'image',

that they have assumed too much about their customers and will

be turning off too many people.

<br><br>

Still, I believe that, with some minor changes, they can be

successful as a Subway for the Starbuck's set.


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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[...]You compared with Chinese food.  I agree that I might often

prefer a Chinese place.  I omitted saying so because I was

trying to be 'fair' and stay within the target 'space' of

sandwich shops and because Chinese food is so different and

can be such severe competition! :wink:

[...]

Actually, banh mi is Vietnamese, but your point is made. :wink:

project, I'm wondering where you grew up, because I don't think a city like New York fits your descriptions. It may well be that it would be hard to sell pomegranates in Kansas or some other place in the real or mythical Heartland; I frankly don't know. What I do know is that I had a middle-class -- not by any stretch rich -- upbringing, and pomegranates were part of my childhood. Endives aren't a huge big deal in New York, either. And alfalfa sprouts -- if that's what Starwich is using for sprouts -- have been humble foods since hippie days. It seems to me that Starwich is trying to offer their customers lots of options. If you are one of their customers and you don't feel like trying pomegranates or endives, you don't have to, right? But really, a lot of non-rich New Yorkers have enjoyed things like that, know very well what they are, and if they're men, don't feel the least bit emasculated by eating them. Nor are New Yorkers riding off into the sunset on their trusty steeds. :biggrin:


Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan

 

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Pan,

<br><br>

For your questions, I grew up in Memphis but have spent the

last 20 years between New York City and Albany.

<br><br>

FG says that chefs he knows say that the food at Starwich is

good, and I am prepared to believe them.

<br><br>

You asked about my interests in food: I have eaten food from

many ingredients, combinations, and techniques from France,

Germany, Italy, China, etc. and new to me, and intend to

continue doing so. I'm not against things that are new.

<br><br>

We have been touching on sprouts: I like bean sprouts -- have

eaten a lot of them. But sprouts can be more than just a

food; they can also contribute to an 'image': E.g., you

noted: -- "have been humble foods since hippie days." So,

given too much in sprouts, tofu, all-natural this, whole-grain

that, organic everything else, with some vegetarianism thrown

in, and I sense not just issues of nutrition, microbiology, or

food chemistry but style, fashion, fads, and a pseudo religion

and want to get out of there before people start smoking funny

stuff and the place gets raided! :biggrin:

<br><br>

For my comments in this thread on Starwich, I don't think that

we're talking about food or cooking, either old or new, but

'image' making in strategic 'marketing'. One of the old

efforts in such 'marketing' was to 'target' young urban

professionals (YUPPIES) with two professional jobs, no

children, lots of disposable income, eager to feel part of the

set of the 'right' people, politically liberal, socially

conscious, environmentally sensitive, worried about the

whales, spotted owls, bad ozone, good ozone, and bad carbon

dioxide (but not ungulate flatulence), owners of one Volvo,

one Saab, two 10-speed bikes, lots of hiking gear, and the

complete Joan Baez, and great fans of Chablis and Brie --

together. My concern with such a combination is not the

individual characteristics but the

insult of the presumptive

manipulativeness of the combination.

That image actually got me to eat less Brie!

With that marketing 'target',

the marketing guys were rubbing their hand

with glee and drooling but, I believe, totally fooling

themselves. I sense that the Starwich people have fallen into

such a trap of marketing nonsense.

<br><br>

Still, I believe that a Subway for the Starbuck's set is a

good business idea and can be successful. I would advise the

Starwich people to concentrate on the food and to set aside

'marketing' ideas of manipulating people with images and

vicarious experiences. Again, I will concede that their

'image' making may be getting them some publicity, which is

one of the best cases of advertising per dollar. They can

make some menu adjustments later if necessary.


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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project, I'm pretty uninterested in marketing. I'm a no-BS person, and generally speaking, I care only about the product. And in that spirit, I would never let any concern about marketing or image cause me to decrease my ingestion of good brie and think it's a pity that you are letting what I consider unimportant things like marketing and image impel you to deny yourself a gustatory pleasure. Then again, I never gave a damn about fashion when I was growing up, either. Being "cool" (or whatever the current youth slang is now) is really important to many people, but never was important to me. Liking the latest fashion because it's new and hip is all BS to me, anyway. :biggrin:


Michael aka "Pan

 

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for what it's worth: the Balthazar Bakery sells its coffee to go in cups designed in exactly that manner.

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I get varying reactions when I tell people about Starwich's price point. Some folks are scandalized by the idea of a $9 sandwich, regardless of what's in it. Others think $9 for a sandwich made from top-quality ingredients is not only acceptable but also a good value. Then there are the folks who think in terms of bigger-is-better: "How big is it? If it's big like Carnegie's, then it's worth it." Having eaten quite a few Starwich sandwiches now, what I can say is this: if you compare apples to apples (in other words, we're not talking about cheesesteaks here) you're not going to find a better sandwich for less money, and it's not easy to find a better sandwich for more money.

After taking a look at the Starwich web site (and I basically share Jason Perlow's criticisms of it, but would add one more: in an era of pop-up blockers, its use of pop-up windows for many functions could frustrate some browsers; then again, I guess I should talk, for my byline links on my own Web site open new windows), I would have to agree with your assessment above based on the ingredient choices.

As far as I can tell, the closest competition in Philadelphia would be the Cosi chain, whose sandwiches are almost as adventurous and priced between Starwiches and hoagies. The interesting thing here is that Cosi originally offered a mix-and-match sandwich menu, with some pre-selected combinations listed by number; the chain has since abandoned this approach. (I've not yet experienced Miel, but I believe they specialize in pastries rather than sandwiches; if I am wrong, please correct me.)

As for location, Starwich would probably want to locate somewhere near the West Market Street office canyons and Rittenhouse Square. There's a restaurant space in the 1700 block of Chestnut that's now available (see the "Hamburger Mary's" or "Gay-friendly dining" topics on the Pennsylvania forum) that might work well for them--but it would face serious competition from the DiBruno Bros. specialty food emporium/take-out kitchen just a few doors west.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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