Although the Italian casual dining chains seem to be struggling in today's market, a James Beard award winning chef sees the potential in the Italian quick-serve sector.
Chef Mark Ladner left NYC's fine dining restaurant Del Posto to open a pasta-focused fast food restaurant.
Pasta Flyer serves pasta that is cooked in 15 seconds and a meal at Ladner's new concept is affordable with a price point between $7 and $8.
Ladner is one of the many former fine dining chefs making a transition to more casual concepts.
"There's no reason why people who aren't wealthy shouldn't be able to have access to good food," said Ladner to "Insider." "We aren't afraid of fast food because we think that it doesn't necessarily need to have a negative connotation."
Pasta Flyer has been dubbed as the "McDonald's of pasta" and its particularly attractive to those on-the-go diners.
The menu is quite simple. There are five different pasta meals, including the Organic Fusilli, Fettuccine, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Gluten-Free Penne, and Whole Grain Rigatoni to pick from. Guests can also get sides like a salad, friend cauliflower, garlic dots, and baked eggplant parmigiano.
"We think the future of this brand is basically spaghetti and meatballs," said Ladner. "But we can do it in like 30 seconds, and it's as good as you can get really anywhere."
Ladner aims to serve all the pasta dishes in 40 seconds or less. To do this, the sauces are prepared as much as possible in advance.
Just because it's affordable doesn't mean that Ladner sources low-quality ingredients either.
So how else is he keeping costs low?
The chef is taking advantage of his long-standing relationships with food purveyors in Italy.
"They're giving us affordable deals with the hope of continuing with us as we grow," said Ladner to "Insider." "It's the best pasta I know of in the world, and it's $7.50."
The chef has loftly goals to expand the concept outside of NYC, but he is in no rush. Instead, he wants to focus on perfecting the restaurant model.
"We're not worried about our second or fifth or 10th location, we're worried about trying to make this place as good as it can be and getting some momentum...," said Ladner.
Do you think this pasta-focused QSR will be successful enough to expand to other cities in the country? Is this concept different enough than pasta-focused fast casual brands like Noodles & Co?
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