Restaurant Development & Design

March-April 2015

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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4 8 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 5 TACO GUILD Abandoned Methodist Church is Born Again BY DANA TANYERI, Editor-in-Chief PROJECT PROFILE B eing a legacy chain with a fercely loyal clientele is on every executive's wish list, but there can be two sides to that coin. The fip side is that the freedom to innovate can be extremely limited. Such was the scenario that Steven Micheletti, president and CEO of the 25-year-old Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill restaurant group, says was a driving force be- hind the creation of Taco Guild, a new concept the company opened in central Phoenix in late 2013. The idea was to downscale to a casual, farm-to-table Mexican street- food place with a limited menu of 10 handcrafted tacos, a broad selection of tequila and mescal, and a mixologist- driven bar. "We initially visualized taking one of the most run-down gin mills you'd imagine and literally putting a taco truck into it," Micheletti says. "We'd create it with a lot of used equipment and fur- nishings, shopping at Goodwill and con- signment shops. That would be our kind of fundamental approach to the concept. We found a location we felt would ft, did the design work, went through the process of getting the liquor license and were ready to go, but ultimately aborted the project. There were some neighbor- hood and parking issues that, in the end, we felt were just too risky." A local real estate agent two days later approached Micheletti with an alter- native possibility – an abandoned Meth- odist church. Although it's a relatively young city, Phoenix is known for creative, adaptive reuse of its buildings, and the notion of repurposing an old church into a restaurant appealed to him. The initial vision of a gin mill/taco truck hybrid quickly fell by the wayside, however, as the church lent new and symbiotic pos- sibilities for both concept and design.

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