A Pret A Manger location in New York City has become a test site for a handful of virtual brands created by one of its suppliers.
In addition to its own menu, the store is offering items from five chef-driven concepts created by Cuisine Solutions, a supplier of sous vide ingredients for foodservice. The items are being made to order in the restaurant’s basement kitchen, and are available for takeout and delivery through third-party delivery firms.
Dubbed CS DAK — for Cuisine Solutions Dark Assembly Kitchen — the group is testing five brands created by Cuisine Solutions, which supplies the fully cooked, sous vide products to the Pret kitchen. Currently chefs from Cuisine Solutions are working side-by-side with Pret’s staff, but during the next few weeks Pret’s kitchen workers are expected to take over the preparation of the items.
Pret purchases the fully cooked ingredients from Cuisines Solutions and sells the prepared products at a markup, just like it would other items on its menu.
Felipe Hasselmann, president and CEO of Cuisine Solutions, said the concept grew out of his company’s existing product supply relationships with Pret and its parent company, JAB Holding, which also owns Panera Bread, Krispy Kreme and other concepts. Cuisine Solutions also supplies airlines, hotels and a range of restaurants from quick service to fine dining.
“As a company with over 55 chefs worldwide — in Europe, Central America, Middle East, Asia — we can take experience of those chefs, and deliver that to people’s homes,” he said.
A spokesperson for Pret A Manger was not immediately available for comment.
The CS DAK concepts are designed to offer restaurant-quality experiences, delivered fully prepared and ready to eat, with the exception of items on the Bodega menu, which are delivered fully cooked but frozen, for consumers to thaw and cook at home. The virtual brands offered through the initial test location in Pret, as listed on Grubhub, are:
• Cocina Oscura, which offers customizable burritos and bowls and several upscale Mexican appetizers, sides and entrées, such as Costillas Tamarindo with Esquites (pork ribs with tamarind barbecue sauce) for $25.99 and Pulpa Veracruzana (grilled octopus) for $31.99.
• Poultry in Motion, which offers several global takes on chicken dishes, such as Five Spice Hoisin Chicken and Harissa Rubbed Chicken, all priced at $25.99, as well as several breakfast dishes, starting at $4.99;
• Mediterranean, offering wraps, salads, bowls at $9.99, and mezzes and other fare from the region, with entrées priced from $25.99 to $54.99.
• The Cutting Edge, offering a range of appetizers and entrees from around the world, with prices ranging from $8.99 for Corn Poblano Soup to a 16-ounce Braised Lamb for $54.99;
• Bodega, which offers frozen, fully cooked sauces, sides and entrées along with instructions for preparing at home. Breakfast items include Turkey Bacon and Cheese Eggbites for $5.49, and dinner entrées include a variety of poultry, lamb, pork and beef items, ranging from a Half Chicken with Thyme, Salt and Pepper for $12.99 to a Leg of Lamb for $85.99.
All of the menus are available for pickup or delivery in Manhattan via Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates and via the website, order.csdak.com.
Cuisine Solutions and Pret are promoting the items through signage inside the restaurant, promotions and offers on the third-party delivery apps, direct mail to the local area and outdoor posters.
The five concepts are among about a dozen that Cuisine Solutions has in development. Plans call for introducing other concepts, including Thai, barbecue, Italian and plant-based, at additional restaurant locations in the coming months.
The goal is to respond to consumers’ demands at each location and plug different concepts in and out quickly, said Hasselmann.
At the initial Pret location, the kitchen had to be reconfigured somewhat to accommodate cooking to order, said Sean Wheaton, VP of culinary services at Cuisine Solutions. Pret had previously operated the kitchen like a commissary, producing grab-and-go items in batches. Cooking items to order required the addition of countertop refrigeration units in the prep areas and some additional cooking equipment, he said.