Foodservice Equipment Reports

UNIT DESIGN: Miami’s Latest Heat

If you’ve ever asked yourself how you can get more production out of minimal space, check out R&T Signature Grill in Miami. This newly opened sub sandwich/wings/burgers/gyros concept, covering 1,200 sq. ft. with seating for 36, is roughly the size of a boxcar. Yet right out of the starting gate, this tiny powerhouse has been able to crank out some an average of $2,500 in daily sales since its mid-March opening.

R&T Signature Grill is the brainchild of two well-known South Miami restaurateurs, Dan Kaplan and Chef Pedro Rosado. Together they run a 20-year-old, four-unit, New York-style deli called Roasters ’n Toasters. The partners had been looking to branch out in a new direction for a while.

When a Blimpie’s outlet two doors down from their main restaurant folded last summer, Kaplan and Rosado immediately contacted the landlord. Then they reached out to David Craft, principal of Coral Springs, Fla.-based Commercial Kitchen Planners, a foodservice designer they had worked with a few years earlier after a devastating kitchen fire.

Their goals for the new shop were simple. “We wanted to open a fast-casual restaurant serving sub sandwiches, burgers, wings and gyros in a small space that wouldn’t require too much labor to run,” Rosado says. The restaurant had to have enough cookline/prepline chops to turn out top quality, freshly made food with a minimum of staffing. It also had to be easy to keep clean, while meeting stringent Florida health code regulations.

3D Streamlines Design Process

Rosado came up with an equipment list and explained to Craft how he wanted the concept to operate—which was to have a convenient food-safe layout with everything at hand in nearby compartments or drawers.

In a stroke of luck for the restaurateurs, their designer happened to be proficient in Revit, a relatively new kind of building information modeling software that renders plans in 3D with a depth of detail unavailable in traditional 2D drawings.

The advantage for Kaplan and Rosado lay in Revit’s ability to show them their future restaurant from an unlimited number of angles—all in 3D, and in color to boot.

“It’s like a camera,” Craft says. “The owners were able see what kind of kitchen they would be working in—long before construction began. No surprises.”

Rosado agrees. “I could actually study the position the cook would be working, and I could see how far he’d have to stretch to reach this ingredient or that,” adds Rosado, whose main tweak to the plans was a size increase to the grill, from 4’ to 5’.

The other benefit from the Revit process for the Signature Grill team lay in the program’s built-in ability to flag design errors.

“Designs for small projects such as the Signature Grill aren’t as complicated,” Craft says. “But no matter what the size of the project, Revit allows all architects, engineers and designers to be working off the same file. When the program runs an error check of the whole facility, it will tell you if, say, plans call for duct work running in the same spot as a gas line, or you accidentally have two pieces of equipment overlapping the same space.”

“It’s much more cost-effective to correct such mistakes on paper than at the construction site,” Craft says.

Big Action, Tight Space

The R&T Signature Grill project took only about 10 months from idea to opening. Part of the speed can be attributed to its small size and limited layout options.

The challenge lay in cramming everything needed to make the Signature Grill hum into a space about the size of a boxcar. Some 226 sq. ft. of the nearly 1,200-sq.-ft.-space is devoted to cooking and serving, 377 sq. ft. for prep, pot-washing and walk-ins, and the remaining 556 sq. ft. for seating, restrooms and entry area.

The Signature Grill cookline sits under a 14’ hood. The line includes a double decker convection oven, a pair of fryers, a 5’ griddle, 2-burner step-up range, a 5’ charbroiler and a gyro broiler. Refrigerated drawers under the griddle and charbroiler hold prepped foods conveniently near point of use.

The counter side is equally busy, equipment-wise. A set of drop-in hot food wells holds meat for the Philly sandwiches, and a mini-conveyor oven is used for toasting hot sub sandwiches. A cold prep table holds fixings for an array of salads and sandwiches. And, per Florida health code regulations, three hand sinks—two on either side of the cookline and one in back prep area—help ensure clean hands at 15’ intervals.

Labor-wise, the Signature Grill employs 11 cooks working two shifts, several part-time workers and two managers. Four cooks work the line, with a prep cook and dish washer as backup. During the day, the restaurant is strictly counter service—about 70% of its business is carryout. In the evening, the restaurant shifts to table service.

Smart Layout, Safe Holding, Easily Cleaned

Food quality, efficiency, food safety and cleanability were the team’s main goals in laying out the kitchen and prep area.

The Signature Grill’s open kitchen arrangement helps sell the message of fresh-made, quality food.

“Customers can see cooks making their order; they can see the cleanliness of our kitchen and staff,” Rosado says. Part of Signature Grill’s open character comes from a custom-made sneeze guard—a sturdy glass shelf set into a stainless steel framework. The unit holds buns and other items within easy reach while allowing interested guests to check out culinary activity going on behind it.

A good part of the restaurant’s efficiency and food safety aspects come from the refrigeration placement. “The walk-ins for raw ingredients are in the back, immediately next to the prep area,” Craft says. “Prepped food is then stored in the refrigerated drawers along the cookline. Not only are you separating raw and prepped food storage, you’re also keeping raw food at safe temperatures since the walk-in doors aren’t being opened and closed as often.”

Although its cold storage space is limited, the Signature Grill’s urban location allows it to take delivery up to three times daily if need be.

The Signature Grill’s cookline also features notable cleanability. “All cooking equipment is on casters and fitted with plugs and quick-disconnects, so each piece can be rolled away from the wall for weekly deep-cleaning,” Craft says. “Some of those pieces weigh 400 lbs. or 500 lbs. If they stood on legs, they’d never be moved.”

Front Of House

R&T Signature Grill’s dining area is not meant to be fancy. “We’re a carryout restaurant,” Rosado says.

It seats 36, with chairs that are “comfortable enough, yet not meant to be sat in all day,” Craft adds.

The service counter is red granite atop a warm yellow cabinetry. The soffits, ceiling and the back corner match the red granite counters. Four back-lit, flat-panel menu boards placed at easy-viewing angles along the soffit advertise Signature Grill’s carryout and catering menu. In the back, a self-service glass-door reach-in holds canned and bottled beverages.

A Look Ahead
“The whole impetus driving Signature Grill was the success of Roasters ’n Toasters,” Rosado says. “Anyone can open a restaurant, but Danny Kaplan has such a strong track record in Miami with the deli that the R&T Signature Grill had a credibility from day one.”

The pair currently has no immediate plans to open a second Signature Grill. But it’s relatively inexpensive to open (compared to the larger Roasters ’n Toasters deli).

“We ultimately want to open more,” Kaplan says. “Signature Grill is our test model.”

MENU/SEGMENT: Fast casual



SIZE: 1,200 sq. ft.




PLANS: 1 opening in 2012

DESIGN: David Craft, Commercial Kitchen Planners, Coral Springs, Fla.

ARCHITECT: John Lamb, Archtype Design, Coral Springs, Fla.


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