rebecca kilbreath hsThis month, rd+d takes a look at the New Faces of Fast-Casual — they’re diverse, dynamic and prepared for growth (page 32). The broad mix of food types and entrepreneur styles provide an intriguing snapshot of the current state of fast-casual development.

Watching these brands and those in other segments figure out how to break out of the pack and stake their claims on the future has been fascinating. And I’ve been lucky enough to sometimes get a front-row seat.

Recently, I was telling Jay Miranda, associate principal-lead designer at JP Architects, Ltd., that I’d like to see what he does and who he works with up close. (Read about his expertise and insights in Reader’s Dish, page 58). Jay kindly invited me to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Chicago-based family-owned chain Paisans Pizzeria and Bar. Jay and Ariel Delao, vice president of JP Architects, Ltd., took me and Renee Pas, editor to rd+d’s sister publication, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies, to meet the team at Paisans.

Owner Pete Fejzuloski graciously agreed to walk us through his new flagship location in Chicago, providing us with a glimpse behind the curtain, and generously sharing intel and insights with us.

It was an illuminating afternoon. Pete’s vision and aesthetic drives the brand — so much so that he purchased his own metal shop to ensure he could add all the high-end tactile touches that are important to him. The result is higher end fixtures and furnishings than most operations of any size or scale could achieve.

At Paisans, they put exceptional effort, creativity and investment capital into creating guest experiences, but they also understand where to keep costs contained. For example, Pete showed us his in-house supplies room. You see, he keeps his eye on going-out-of-business sales and swoops in to buy anything his restaurants frequently need. That includes any prep, cooking and storage equipment. He has stacks of it in a storage room at his flagship store. And his managers know to come there first before bothering to pay retail!

Our final stop was to tour the latest location that was due to open any time. General contractor Spiro Douvris gave us a tour of the restaurant, still under construction, and detailed his challenges dealing with local municipalities and lead times.

Having the opportunity to get up close and personal with architects, designers, and operators this year has been inspiring. As we close out 2023,
I hope your own experiences in the field have been as fulfilling.

We’ll see you in January, when we will launch a new magazine design!

Thanks for reading,