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Snack-food has never been so fashionable but the only places who actually declare that is what they sell are kebab restaurants. That’s a pity because cafés that sold snacks and light lunches have disappeared with the onslaught of new types of fast-food which, certainly, are faster but which leave a lot to be desired compared to the traditional café fare. Snack-food itself hasn’t entirely disappeared, we can still find it here and there but only a few of the bigger cafés offer a good choice.
Snack food could provide the basis for a contemporary food concept, attractive for the customer and profitable for you, simply by dusting off old ideas and aiming for a higher standard.
You’ll need a premises of between 80m² and 170m². There are several possibilities when choosing your location. Either you set up in a good-sized shopping mall (provided the rent isn’t too high and there are cinemas nearby to ensure evening custom) or you choose a lively shopping area in a town centre, with plenty of offices in the vicinity. In the latter case, you’ll need to count on a population of at least 50,000 inhabitants, unless you’re in a suburban area where several towns run into each other. If you choose a large town, proximity to a central railway station would be a distinct advantage.
Choose a contemporary style of decoration, stick to wood and neutral shades, everything should be understated. You won’t need a huge kitchen because even if the food you serve is good, you’re not out to earn a Michelin star! Let me remind you that the word snack comes from a griddle, an old sheet of metal, cast-iron or even steel. With the addition of a deep-fat fryer and a stove, snack food was born! You, of course, will need a little more material but it’s pointless investing heavily in expensive equipment. My suggestions for you menu will help you judge what you’ll need.
I’ll begin with the traditional cold platters:
-a selection of carved cold meats served with chips or salad and home-made mayonnaise.
-pate and pork meats served with gherkins
-the same as above with the addition of two or three portions of cheese
-for a modern twist, try a Scandinavian platter with smoked salmon and other smoked fish. You could compose 2 different platters, but pay close attention to the quality of your produce. Serve with lemon wedges and slices of toast.
Next, in the true tradition of café fare, you’re going to eggs, cooked in various ways. Take note: your eggs must be organic. You’re probably hopping off your seat at the idea of the cost of organic eggs but just think how it will look on your menu: “all our eggs are free-range and organic”! Not only do today’s customers expect good quality, but you’ll also make a handsome profit selling those eggs at a price justified by both the quality and copiousness of the dishes prepared.
The waiter will ask each customer how he likes his eggs done. So you’ll have to be entirely satisfied with the competence of the person in charge of cooking the eggs. Your fried eggs will be sold by three, either plain or with ham or bacon (choose English-style round bacon) and accompanied by toast, salad or chips. Three eggs for each omelet too, plain or ham or ham and cheese served with salad or chips on the side.
If you like you could also propose scrambled eggs, Benedict eggs, ranchero eggs…
One very important point: the chips! Find a supplier to deliver freshly cut chips, don’t use frozen chips. Your café is of an above average standard and you’ll charge accordingly so pay attention to these details.
Another classic: the toasted sandwich. Choose 5 or 6 sorts including the French “croque-monsieur”.
All your toasted sandwiches should be made using good quality sliced white loaf or whole meal bread. Serve with salad or chips.
Another great classic which doesn’t feature in the traditional café fare is the club-sandwich. Propose two sorts: the original (chicken and bacon) and a tuna fish one. In both cases, serve accompanied by chips. If you make these well, they’re sure to be a winner.
If there’s one product which adapts particularly well to the concept of snack food, it’s the hamburger. A hamburger prepared with a freshly minced burger, generous in size, cooked to the customers’ taste and served on good quality bread- this is a far cry from those horrible burgers sold in fast-food restaurants, and is bound to sell very well. You’ll have the traditional cheeseburger and cheese-burger on the menu but try a few more original creations using, for example, goats’ cheese or blue cheese. I suggest you replace the usual sesame-seed buns with ciabatta rolls which can be toasted and are perfect for hamburgers- this will bring a personal touch to your hamburgers. All burgers will be served with chips. That’s about all for the savory dishes, except you might want to add two or three salads, a tartare or a rib-eye steak but personally I would remain strictly snack-food. By now, you’ll have grasped the strength of this concept: few basic ingredients, (3 or 4 times less than a regular restaurant) simple recipes excluding the need for ultra-competent staff, simple food of wide-appeal, and a tendency towards chic, classy snack food which will allow you to charge enough to make a tidy profit.
Propose three main sorts of desserts. Find a good pastry supplier, unless you yourself happen to be a pastry-chef. You’ll also propose nicely presented ice-creams. And finally, a real plus would be to sell crepes. Everybody loves them and they fit in perfectly with your snack-food menu. All of these desserts can be sold all afternoon along with hot drinks and refreshments. And your turnover will continue to climb!
Traditionally, the snack-bars of old wrote their menus on boards, with at least one boasting “open all day”. Your opening hours are up to you but I think that opening all day isn’t a bad idea, at least for the easiest part of your menu. Before opening, deliver your menu + phone number to all shops and offices in the vicinity. Specify that customers may call with an order to take away and eat at their workplace. Don’t forget take-away is part of how we live today.
I sincerely hope there will be many takers for this concept and if one of you opens not too far away I will definitely be a regular customer.
So, see you soon perhaps…