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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there. I’m new here, and I have lots of questions. I hope this is the correct forum to ask them in. I’m not a chef, but we have grand plans to open a small restaurant of our own, and I could use some advice from the pro’s now while we are still in the planning stages.

Our concept is basically a restaurant based on Mac & Cheese and Grilled Cheese, and other cheesy items, using the freshest ingredients we can find and staying away from the same-old-frozen stuff every corner pizza shop serves around here. We feel we have a really great mac & cheese recipe to use as our base, and plan to produce a variety of dishes based on it by adding in meats and other items. For example, buffalo chicken mac & cheese would get some fresh grilled chicken, some wing sauce and bleu cheese added in. We plan to have some standard flavors and also daily specials.

We have been thinking about trying to do this as a fast-casual kind of restaurant, with takeout too and also refrigerated mac & cheese already prepared for people to just grab & go and pop in the oven at home. We think our biggest clientele is going to be the lunch crowd and they will be in a hurry to get back to work. So my biggest question is, how do we make it fast and keep it high quality? My idea is kind of assembly line style.. we have al dente pasta ready to go. Scoop out a serving and add our cheese sauce, add in any meats and mix it all up. Top it with extra cheese and run it through a small conveyor belt oven/broiler to melt the cheese on top. Person on the other end of the oven grabs it, gives it to the customer and sends it on its way.

Would a method like this work? And, most importantly, how do you keep your ingredients and especially the cheese sauce from getting “crusty and old” after a while? (it’s basically just bechamel with cheeses added in). Should we just keep a smaller amount out there and replenish it often? I’ve been to many fast casual burrito places and usually there are a few things that you can tell are old, and the teenagers behind the counter don’t seem to care. That’s something we really want to be able to avoid. Also would it be better to have the “plain” mac & cheese already ready to go, and not keep the sauce and pasta separate in the beginning? Again, worried about things getting dried out and gross but I guess if we go through it fast enough it should be fine? Also don’t want the pasta go get all squishy if it sits too long.

Sorry this has been such a long post. Would really appreciate any advice any of you pros could share :)

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I imagined we would keep the pasta cold, but the cheese and meats warm.. theory is that the cold pasta would get warmed up just fine with the hot molten cheese sauce + oven ride. Maybe it would be fine if the meats were cold too? Don't have the equipment to test it, but I'm planning to give it a go with my regular home oven this weekend when we test out some more ideas. I want it to be fast though, since everyone is in a hurry, so I think it would mostly be more for melting the cheese on top.

As far as cooking goes, we were thinking of just using round aluminum take out containers to mix in the pasta and run through the oven. For take out, we'll just stick that in a small pizza box. For dine in, we'll transfer it to a deep dish or bowl. Like you said we don't want people to get burned. I know some restaurants serve food on hot dishes and tell you it's hot, but I don't like that idea because someone is always going to get burned no matter how much you warn them.

And yes like you said it would be like a Chipotle or Subway where you build your own or select our pre-made recipes. but we really want to focus on fresh and homemade ingredients. We also plan to offer "upscale" grilled cheeses (but will probably go for something more like paninis), and other fun cheesy items. but the mac & cheese would be the focus.

I was just thinking what might work is if we make a lot of the bechamel sauce in the morning, and then store most of it in the fridge.. then heat it up in smaller batches as needed and add in the cheese and then we're ready to go.
 
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