Foodservice Equipment Reports

UNIT DESIGN: Uno Dué Go Go Go!

Say hello to Uno Dué Go, Uno Chicago Grill’s new contender in the quick-casual market. There’s no question the two concepts share some DNA, but there’s also no question that Due is very much its own brand.

True, the new concept’s menu starts with pizza like the original Uno’s does, and it’s pizza made in a showy stone hearth oven. But beyond that, Due’s menu expands to include a cornucopia of freshly made sandwiches on artisanal breads as well as offerings of grilled paninis, wraps, salads, soups, appetizers, desserts and even a full coffee program. The whole works is shown off in a marketplace-style, self-serve setting. Cooking action takes place in front of guests at well-appointed display cooking stations.

Due, or UDG, made its initial debut in 2008 at two 700-sq.-ft. locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth Int’l. Airport, followed in ’10 by two university units. The first full-fledged urban UDG prototype, a 3,500-sq.-ft., 90-seat restaurant, opened at 52 Summer Street in downtown Boston last August. The new store is brisling with advanced energy- and water-efficient equipment and makes sustainable use of reclaimed and recycled furnishings. As the UDG flagship, it will serve as prototype for future units.

The future looks good. Even though UDG’s Boston footprint covers about half the territory of typical Uno restaurants, the prototype store, serving about 1,200 covers daily with capacity for up to 1,500, is already on track to generate about $2.3 million in annual sales—about the same as typical Uno units.

“We saw UDG as a natural progression [from Uno],” says Jamie Strobino, senior v.p. at the 162-unit Uno Restaurant Holdings Corp. in Boston. The company expects to open two UDG restaurants in ’12, and a recent agreement with its main franchisee, Dallas-based FGR Food Corp., will lead to some 30 Texas openings over the next few years.

UDG Evolution

The idea for Uno Dué Go began in ’06, then began to take shape in ’07 when Uno’s CEO Frank Guidara joined the company. As the Uno’s team discussed the idea, design concept terms such as “strong presence,” “sustainable,” “transparent” and “artisanal” kept coming up.

“Uno Dué Go merges three customer needs: the ability to get in and out in a hurry or to linger and relax; an abundance of great-tasting, high-quality, nutritionally balanced food; and the hospitality customers expect and deserve,” is how Guidara described the new concept when it made its August debut.

“We wanted a place where guests could hang out if they wanted, or get in and get out quickly,” adds Strobino, whose 30-year foodservice industry resume includes restaurant development for concepts including Border Cafe, Not Your Average Joe’s and Hard Rock Cafe. “Most of all, we wanted the food to draw the eye and sell itself, so we included the many self-serve points.”

As part of the long-term growth strategy, the UDG development team also wanted its new quick-pizza concept to be at home in both traditional and non-traditional restaurant sites. Seating would be a key part of urban or freestanding locations, but could be eliminated in sites with shared dining areas such as at airports, universities and shopping malls.

Finally, the team wanted UDG to be its own concept rather than a pared-down, “express” version of its older sib, Uno.

“An Uno regular walking into UDG for the first time would understand that the pizza will be just as good, and would recognize our hospitality and focus on quality food,” Strobino says. “But a lot would be new, too. We’ve added the breakfast bar, we bake flatbreads in the stone-hearth oven, we’ve got a panini station and a build-your-own-salad station.”

And thanks to UDG’s devotion to nutrition and its awareness of potential food allergies, the store offers a comprehensive guide to all menu items and ingredients via an electronic kiosk near the entrance.

Equipping UDG

From an equipment standpoint, the UDG package is about a third less cost and a third less complex than a typical Uno store.

“UDG’s equipment is mainly grab-and-go refrigerated items out front, in addition to the stone-hearth oven and a small cookline in back. UDG has no fryers or griddles, so its ventilation needs are less, and there’s no walk-in freezer, beer cooler or bar as with all the Uno restaurants,” says Kirk Proffitt, chain account manager at Dykes Restaurant Supply, Huntsville, Ala., who was part of the design team for both UDG and Uno restaurants.

Uno Dué Go’s six food areas are laid out along a curved path that Strobino describes as the restaurant’s Main Street. The goal was speed-of-service, which led designers to include plenty of grab-and-go points.

First comes the breakfast bar on the right, followed by the sandwich and salads stops. On the left is an array of homemade soups in heated crocks, a self-serve gourmet coffee and tea area, a double-duty drop-in cooler that holds yogurt-plus-toppings in the morning and antipastos in the afternoon, and finally a reach-in beverage cooler. (“We have no beverage fountains because people want to be able to grab a bottle or can and toss it into their bags. You can’t do that with cups,” Strobino notes.) UDG’s focal point and its biggest station is the stone-hearth oven.

Five cash registers help speed service. “We had to add the fifth POS on our third day of business—it was that busy,” Strobino recalls. These days, UDG ticket times range from two minutes on average to nearly four minutes during peak times.

Stone-Hearth Inspiration

Uno Dué Go’s signature stone-hearth oven helped dictate the series of circles and half-circle design motifs that give the restaurant its playful, organic feel and unique floorplan. The massive oven, clad in reclaimed brick and topped by a hood extending to the ceiling, anchors UDG’s Main Street both visually and literally.

“Everything started with the pizza oven,” says Stephen Sousa, principal of Sousa Design, the Boston-based firm that gave UDG its signature look. The breakfast station and the soup-coffee-antipasto area both have matching curves, and even the floor tile pattern and overhead lighting fixtures curve and swoop in repeating circles.

The oven is the restaurant’s workhorse piece of equipment. It’s supported by a pizza prep-table on one side, and finished pies are offered on heated drop-in surfaces at the front. The open counter between the pizzas and salads gives space for salad prep. Pizza boxes are stored on shelves below.

The oven’s versatility was a key point for UDG. “In the mornings, we’ll bake enough flatbread to see us through the lunch rush. Then we’ll crank the heat up to 700[deg]F and begin making hand-tossed flatbread pizzas,” Strobino says.

In keeping with its Uno heritage, UDG’s deep-dish pizzas are produced in the back-of-house using a smaller version of the conveyor ovens used in Uno’s restaurants. “During the lunch rush, we’ll keep at a few of each type of deep-dish pizza on the heated display shelves at the pizza station, and back-fill as needed,” Strobino says.


Back Of House

Uno Dué Go’s back of house takes up less than a third of the space of the front service area. Its production line features a conveyor oven for the deep-dish pizzas, a pair of panini presses and a convection oven on one wall and a vegetable and food prep area on the opposite wall. At one end of the kitchen space sits the 60-qt. mixer; walk-ins and warewashing occupy the opposite end.

A pass-through window near the stone-hearth oven allows for easy transfer of deep-dish pizzas and finished paninis from back to front.

As a downtown restaurant, UDG had to comply with stringent clean-air regulations. “Boston building codes required us to install a variable speed hood equipped with a scrubber unit to remove particulates and odors,” Proffitt says, pointing out the hood serving the conveyor oven, panini presses and convection oven. The stone-hearth oven comes with a built-in hood, which designers had to route through the shared scrubber system.

The scrubber is about 14’ long and relies on a series of filters to extract particulates and odor. “Since there are no fryers or griddles, and the oven is only used for baking, filter changes should be kept to a minimum,” Proffitt says of future maintenance needs.

“The only bad thing about the scrubber is that it works almost too well,” Proffitt adds. “When you’re standing outside the store, you can’t smell any of the baking breads or pizzas from inside.”

UDG Look

Front-of-house design was “all about showcasing Uno Dué Go’s bounty of food while linking its architecture [subtly] back to its Uno’s Chicago heritage,” Sousa says.

Materials include maple countertops with mahogany edging, sturdy wood chairs made by an Indiana manufacturer, reclaimed brick around the pizza oven and the half-wall fronting that station, and reclaimed oak boards along the fronts of other stations.

The UDG color palate features warm yellows, deep oranges and muted green accents. The floor combines cream and espresso-brown ceramic tile in large half-circle patterns that echo the stations. The lighting, too, plays on the circle motif with various sizes of LED-studded hoops suspended from the ceiling.

Support columns, edged in wood and dressed up with glass mosaic tiles, hold panels featuring cheerful food-related quotes. Menu boards line the soffits and are suspended in front of the pizza oven.

Work In Progress

Uno Dué Go’s second store, set to open later this year in Texas, is currently in design phase. Tweaks to the layout include switching to drop-in soup kettles instead of freestanding units, increasing the walk-in cooler space to hold more produce and adding more grab-and-go units out front.

“The panini presses may be moved up front, but that’s still under discussion,” Proffitt says.

Another tweak, for the Boston store, may be to reconfigure the soup/coffee/grab-and-go station from its current curved footprint to straight line layout. “This would provide more space for queuing during peak times,” Strobino says.

Looking ahead, UDG is still in its early stages. But given its lower cost-of-entry compared to its older sib Unos, and its strong sales at the Boston proto, “We think UDG will be a viable candidate in the fast-casual segment,” Strobino says. “We’re getting great results.”

FACT BOX

MENU/SEGMENT: Fast-casual pizza & sandwiches

HEADQUARTERS: Boston

NUMBER OF UNITS: 4 Roasters 'n Toasters, 1 R&T Signature Grill

SIZE: 3,500 sq. ft.

SEATING: 90

FF&E: $250,000

AVG. UNIT VOLUME: $2.3 million, est.

PLANS: 1 to 2 openings in 2012

ARCHITECT: Sousa Design, Boston

DEALER/FABRICATOR: Dykes Restaurant Supply, Huntsville, Ala.

WEBSITE: unoduego.com

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