Part of Total Food Service’s Blueprint Series: Investigating The Floor Plan And Process Of Hot New Commercial Kitchens
It is rather unusual for an operator to double down on a single neighborhood. But with sell out crowds at the 45th Street eatery, Junior’s knows an additional spot sees enormous potential.
The iconic Brooklyn restaurant Junior’s has opened its much anticipated second location in Times Square at 1626 Broadway in New York City. Cheesecake impresario Alan Rosen has taken his family business to yet another level.
The family-run business has taken over the previous Ruby Foo’s space. The 300-seat restaurant features a bakery and live entertainment. “There is so much demand for Junior’s in Midtown,” said Rosen, “now we will be able to serve even more New Yorkers and visitors for years to come.”
Total Food Service had the opportunity to discuss the creation of Junior’s Restaurant at 1626 Broadway and its’ efficient kitchen, as well as get the project approach from:
- The Owner: Alan Rosen, President, Junior’s Restaurants
- The Kitchen Designer: Jerry Kouveras, Project Manager, Sam Tell and Son
- The Interior Designers:
Lionel Ohayon, Principal, Icrave, NY, NY
Jesse McDougall, Project Manager, Icrave, NY, NY
Maria Lozano, Designer, Icrave, NY, NY
Alan Rosen’s Approach:
From the day we opened our first Junior’s branch in Manhattan, at 1515 Broadway, the demand for our products from New Yorkers and visitors has been tremendous. It grew into one of the top-grossing independent restaurants in the country.
So we had the opportunity to respond to that demand by taking over the old Ruby Foo’s space at 1626 Broadway. Our new 300-seat restaurant features a bakery and live entertainment.
We believe there’s enough traffic, because we’ve been open for less than a month and lines are out the door. This new version of Junior’s has a retro and modern feel.
To accomplish that goal, we brought in a very gifted design team: Icrave. They do beautiful work, they did a great job of refreshing the Junior’s look and feel. I think it’s the Junior’s of the future. We challenged the Icrave team to create an exciting design and at the same time find us the 250 seat plus capacity that we needed. I believe every restaurant we do from here on out will be different.
We don’t want to be a chain. We want to deliver a different experience while remaining true to our roots and our heritage.
From a menu standpoint, we were able to create a beverage program that is local cool and hip with a full line of draft beer options and kegs of wine from Redhook Winery.
We also needed the design to include space for an active bakery and takeout business.
From a menu standpoint, we offer a 200 plus items from corned beef, pastrami to brisket to barbecue ribs, to Romanian tenderloin steaks, broiled salmon, from French toast to bacon and eggs, to Nova with bagels, we do it all.
Our priority has always been to source everything locally. So we were doing local to table before it was fashionable. We love working with vendors like J.Kings. We value their commitment and friendship.
You’re not going to find anyone more loyal than us.
I want quality, and I want to know the salesperson that is calling on us. We have real special relationships. You can ask anybody in the marketplace. They all know we’re not switching for a nickel.
You need to understand that this is not just a tourist destination. It could be your birthday place, it could be your anniversary place, it could be your everyday lunch place or your place where you grab a drink. We want to be everything to everyone.
Jerry Kouveras’ Approach:
I was very excited to be invited to build out the new Junior’s. We had lots of challenges but I’m happy to say, we solved all of them! Obviously, there was a kitchen in there before, and that presented our first challenge.
We worked with Alan last year on the opening of his new restaurant in Boca Raton, FL, so he knew that we had the ability to listen and respond to his needs in Times Square.
Yes, there was an existing kitchen, but we didn’t use the equipment. However, the exhaust system was in place, which was a major help. Services were also in place but not in the ideal location.
The real challenge was the kitchen being located in the cellar. It wasn’t so much the location of the kitchen as much as it was that in the previous configuration, it simply could not handle producing the amount of food needed for 250 plus seats and such a large takeout business. So it was challenging, squeezing in all the stations.
We started by looking at the menu and building a kitchen design based on the most popular dishes and the number of employees need to create each of them.
We built the cooking line around the flexibility and durability of Southbend. We created a custom box for the culinary team to cook their signature pastrami.
We supplemented that with a Blodgett convection oven. We needed to reconfigure the kitchen’s capacity for extensive storage. Deliveries are made on the ground floor with a service elevator to move product to prep. We specified Arctic Walk-Ins to give us both a very clean look with their white interiors and exteriors and their durability and consistency to work with a large constantly turning inventory of food.
One of the most interesting challenges was to support Junior’s very extensive dessert operation. Keep in mind that most restaurants only serve dessert to 20 to 25% of their customers. This restaurant is serving dessert to 70%. So the challenge was to find a place where dessert could be finished and at the same time supply the takeout demand. So we created a suite that sits between the takeout area and the dining area.
All of the baking is done in New Jersey at Junior’s new bakery. So our focus was on creating a solution that displays and “sells” the baked goods. So the display has to be beautiful, and we accomplished that with cases from Federal Industries.
Lionel Ohayon, Jesse MacDougall, and Maria Lozano’s Approach:
Our goal was to create an experience that respected Junior’s vintage, high-energy restaurant appeal, but responded to the theatrical experience and scale of Times Square. To do this, we had to refine the material approach and think big.
The space is unusually long and tall. We wanted to avoid filling the room with too many little objects – instead, we looked at the major elements and assigned refined, design gestures to each.
Some key design features are the orange and white striped packaging which are translated into a free-flowing terrazzo floor pattern and a series of large wedge pendant structures that create rhythm down the full length of the 20-foot tall space.
A monochromatic collage of NY borough landmarks occupies the billboard inspired soffit above the bakery and bar. Classic neon and marquee bulbs in the window portals give the restaurant true sidewalk presence in an area where attention grabbing is a must.
We drew inspiration from the classic restaurant’s wood paneling, segmented mirrors, and shiny stainless surfaces throughout – a mixture of wood and mirrored panels create a lenticular surface that give the restaurant different tones from opposing ends of the dining room. The memorabilia and press clippings that typically adorn a Junior’s restaurant are condensed into a 15-foot collage mural along the dining room. But the star of the show is the 40-foot long undulating Junior’s sign that runs the length of the space. Mr. Rosen connected us with Spaeth Design in Long Island City to fabricate the sign. Spaeth is a specialty fabricator that works on many NYC projects – most notably the robotic holiday windows for Saks Fifth Avenue.
The whole area of Times Square has gone digital – it’s all high tech content. Everyone is staring at big TV’s. We decided to go analog with the undulating sign element; we wanted to expose the mechanical parts to make the physicality evident, more like an amusement park.
Programmatically, we worked closely with the Junior’s team to build a robust bakery counter and take-out business. When customers walk in (or out) they see an abundance of Junior’s famous cheesecakes, pastries, memorabilia, and cookies in refrigerated coolers and showcases. In Times Square, transient visitors and the theater crowd may not always have time to dine-in, and long lines at a take-out counter may deter them; at Junior’s, Icrave worked self-order stations into the design to reduce queue time and move as much delicious cheesecake as possible.
The lighting design was carefully calibrated by the Icrave Lighting department. One of our main objectives was to make the environment adapt to the time of day. To bring Junior’s to the next level, we needed to make it vibrant during the day, and more dramatic at night.
At Junior’s, the lighting design tells the story of the iconic dining experience within its theatrical setting – true to Times Square. Layers of light, ranging from glowing orange pendants for general lighting, directional spotlights highlighting tables, display lights, and bright LED signage letters reflect iconic Junior’s and are carefully calibrated to create drama while still being comfortable for the patrons to enjoy their food.
Custom V-pendants with warm white LEDs, glow from within and create a bold ceiling grid of light lines emphasizing the volume of the space. The dramatically lit blue backwall pops against the orange finishes used throughout the space. The dining experience is completed with globe fixtures on specially designed brackets at the tables and with the rotating, person sized LED Junior’s signage letters as a playful backdrop.
This is really historic for us; this is our first sign in Times Square. We are proud to be a part of Junior’s legacy and continued success as a New York icon.
To learn more about Junior’s Restaurant in Times Square, please visit their website.