Split Bread will eschew cash payments and emphasize high-quality, seasonal ingredients
The founders of the Mixt Greens salad chain are scheduled to debut a new upscale sandwich concept next month that will pioneer new mobile ordering and payment methods.
The new Split Bread concept, scheduled to open on Aug. 8 in San Francisco, will be among the first fast-casual brands to decline cash as payment. Guests may pay with credit or debit cards only.
Customers can place orders and pay three different ways:
• They can order in advance online or via smart phone, so the sandwich is ready when they arrive.
• Split Bread will feature tableside QR codes for guests to scan with their smartphones when they sit down. The code will take them to a website to order and pay, regardless of their mobile device operating system, and their meals will be delivered to the table. No app is required.
• Those without smartphones can order and pay at a podium where the menu is posted.
The idea is to make ordering “frictionless and easy,” said David Silverglide, a partner in Split Bread and the six-unit Mixt Greens chain, based in San Francisco.
Though use of credit and debit cards involve fees for restaurant operators, Silverglide said the efficiencies created make it worthwhile. He said said roughly 70 to 80 percent of customers at Mixt Greens use credit or debit cards, and customers have become used to cash-free payment on airlines.
The company considered putting iPads on all tables, but, Silverglide said, “We wanted to be device agnostic,” leaving guests to their own handheld devices. “A lot of technology being used in restaurants today gets in the way of the experience,” he noted. “This just makes it easy.”
The ordering system also works well with Split Bread’s short but ever-changing menu, which is based almost entirely on seasonal ingredients.
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Developed byAndrew Swallow, also a partner in both Split Bread and Mixt Greens, the menu was to design a limited-service “sandwich bistro” that brings food to a high-end level with all-natural rotisserie meats and organic produce, and a focus on in-house preparation, from pickles to popsicles.
“We want to feed the masses really great, healthy food, and feed them real food, not processed crap,” said Swallow, who previously worked in the kitchens of New York’s Gramercy Tavern and San Francisco’s Boulevard and Gary Danko.
Split Bread’s opening summer menu, for example, will feature sandwiches like a porcini-crusted prime rib-eye sprinkled with Maldon sea salt and Sonoma olive oil on a sourdough baguette for $12.95; or spit-roasted leg of lamb with salsa verde, lemon cucumber and treviso on a toasted ciabatta roll for $10.95.
Guests can make substitutions on sandwiches, but there is no build-your-own option.
Salads include the Market, with mixed greens, spit-roasted, bacon, tomatoes, an eight-minute egg, blue cheese, avocado and house vinaigrette for $10.95; or the Valencia with mixed greens, wild arugula, watermelon, heirloom tomato, feta, lemon cucumber, basil and mint with vinaigrette for $8.95.
Sides include fries, cole slaw, kale salad or smashed potato salad, and for dessert, fresh-baked cookies or house-made popsicles. Beer and wine are also available.
In about eight weeks, the menu will change again, based on what is in season, Swallow said. With the menu available mostly online, there are no concerns about changing menu boards or reprinting menus.
A few menu items are designed to stay year round, such as the roasted short rib sandwich with American cheese, shredded lettuce and house sauce on a toasted English muffin.
But guests that ask for tomato on their sandwiches in winter will likely be disappointed. “We’re saying that there are certain seasons when you should be eating these products. It’s when they taste best,” Swallow said.
The average check will be about $12 at dinner, without beverages, which is on the high end for a limited-service restaurant. Swallow, however, contends that consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for “real food.”
At about 2,000 square feet and 46 seats, Split Bread is designed for growth, Swallow said. The partners are scheduled to open a second unit in January in San Francisco’s Financial District.
A third is planned in 2013 in a San Francisco suburb, though they are still looking for a location. The plan is to fill in the San Francisco Bay area before moving to a new market, and they envision Split Bread as a national brand.
Split Bread is part of a small-but-growing “better sandwich” niche that includes 14-unit ‘wichcraft, based in New York; and five-unit Mendocino Farms, based in Los Angeles, that recently won a significant investment from private-equity firm Catterton Partners.
Silverglide and Swallow have created a new management company for Mixt Greens and Split Bread called The Good Food Guys. The partners founded Mixt Greens in 2006, then sold the brand three years later, only to buy it back again earlier this year.
Swallow said they plan to grow Mixt Greens as well next year, and more concepts are coming.