Leyenda is like any other newly minted quick serve: In its first month the crew behind the concept have faced their share of challenges and successes. And like any successful team, they are rising to the task.
The only difference between Leyenda and other emerging concepts is that it was hatched and is now run by students at the Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) Hyde Park campus.
“It’s just like anyone would experience with opening a new venture,” says Annette Graham, associate dean of management at the CIA. “They’re stepping up; they’re learning a lot.”
She adds that because the students are trained in fine dining, the adjustment to quick service has pushed them to improve and also seek guidance from the faculty.
“Within that [environment] is understanding speed and urgency a little more,” Graham says. “The idea that maybe we should be purchasing precut items, maybe some more convenience type items that can be incorporated without losing quality. Looking for speed of preparation is something that has been really important lessons for the students to learn.”
Planning, opening, and operating a limited-service venture are all part of a three-semester curriculum under the Intrapreneurship concentration. The first part is comprised of a marketing class in which students work in groups to develop a restaurant and business plan. At the end of the semester, the groups pitch their ideas to prospective “investors,” including faculty, industry professionals, and CIA alumni. Graham says that of the five pitches, Leyenda was chosen as the inaugural concept.
During the second part, all students in that cohort work together to develop the menu of the winning pitch. As part of their coursework, they also study and subsequently plan essential business components ranging from social media and POS systems to electronic scheduling and P&L statements.
In the final part, the students open and operate the concept, each working at least five hours a week in the restaurant.
“The conversation we have with students is the development of transferrable skills. It’s that what they’re learning to do is something they can take and use for a similar concept, a different concept, anything that they’re doing,” Graham says. “Why we’re really focusing on intrapreneurship versus entrepreneurship is to provide our students with a skill set that can go out and really help grow businesses.”
Leyenda, which means “legend” in Spanish, specializes in Mexican-inspired fare. It opened September 14 and will run through early December. When the investor panel returns in November to hear pitches for next summer’s slot, the Leyenda team will once again appear before the panel to report on how the restaurant has fared.
“It’s a really fabulous opportunity for these students. They’re getting to do things that no other students get to do,” Graham says. “The benefit of this is that they’re allowed to operate for such a long period of time. They’re really going to get to evaluate performance and understand those measures, which is a really important component.”
She adds that program was paid a high compliment last week when visiting alums said it was the type of program that they would have loved to participate in as students.
In January a new restaurant, with the working title of Terra Frites, will open. Graham says that while the name is not finalized, the concept will feature french fries as a theme and incorporate international cuisine.
By Nicole Duncan