'wichcraft co-founders Sisha Ortuzar and Jeffrey Zurofsky talk about how they source artisanal ingredients and replicate a high-quality meal experience across 14 locations in New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.
'wichcraft co-founders, Sisha Ortuzar and Jeffrey Zurofsky, have managed to take artisanal quality sandwiches from their first shop in Manhattan to 14 shops nationwide by insisting on high quality small local suppliers they pick personally.
00:00 Sisha Ortuzar: Wichcraft is a sandwich shop that was born out of the idea of making sandwiches the way the chefs like to eat, which is you grab a piece of bread and throw some good ingredients, some things that's cooking for that evening service and, so that's how chefs do eat.
00:17 Jeffrey Zurofsky: We make all of our ingredients by hand every day. And so it's as fresh as possible but it also has a certain technique that is built up over years of experience to make a product specialized. You clearly have to start with great ingredients. So it means that nothing is purchased that's already prepared. We take raw, raw products and make them into great finished products every day.
00:41 Sisha Ortuzar: We started this in 2003 and we have 14 locations today; 12 of them in New York, one in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, and one in San Francisco.
How has food sourcing changed as you've grown?
00:56 Jeffrey Zurofsky: When you grow the business... We grew the business to the number of stores right now and feed the number of people we do every day, two things have occurred. One is the supply chain has gotten... As opposed to being, "Let's go to the farmer's market today and put it on the menu today," it's... You have to plan out a little bit more. So if it's a couple days out, you still have to plan. If it's a couple weeks out, you got to plan. And then also, the number of people that we serve every day, they're actually creatures of habit and they want the same thing every day the same way.
01:25 Sisha Ortuzar: We have to keep a certain level of consistency meaning the same products every day, day in and day out. And to source these ingredients like that it's a big challenge.
01:40 Jeffrey Zurofsky: I've always been surprised that the quality of our food has never diminished over time in terms of producing. We make small batches still. Our recipes have not gotten huge. It's very much the same way we've always done it. There have been times in the past where, where we've been... Suppliers have not been able to send us what we wanted.
02:04 Sisha Ortuzar: It happens, especially when you're working with you know, small producers, which are the small baker, a small farmer or a fishery that, that... They don't look ahead years and they have their systems planned out. They just get to a point where we're just gonna cross the line of the amount of food that they can supply to us and you have to deal with that.
02:26 Jeffrey Zurofsky: And we're so particular about something that we're purchasing that we'd rather not serve anything than serve a substitute that isn't the same. Last thing we want to do is, produce so much food of a very highly specialized product that forces a purveyor to make bad choices about the way that food is produced because then you start getting into very, very blurry lines between what is good food, what is well produced food, and what is just commercial food. I think the only thing that has gotten diluted or has the potential to get diluted is what happens at the store with each customer when scale occurs. So getting every cook in every store to produce the same quality finished sandwich with, in the same quickness of time that customers expect, that's the biggest challenge to this business. Producing great turkey every day, six days a week, is not as hard.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2012
NICOLE CARTER is Inc.'s San Francisco bureau chief. She was previously an editor at New York Daily News, and her work has also appeared in Consumer Reports magazine. @nicoleckinc