LACONIA — Wish there was a way to get the homemade food of Faro Italian Grill, but at a lower cost and in less time?
Bri Heney, Faro manager, hopes that you do, because she is in charge of operating the new Faro Express, which opened last week on Union Avenue.
Faro Express utilizes the “fast-casual” dining model, something that has found success in other parts of the country but is new to the Lakes Region.
“This is good food, fast. This isn’t fast food,” said Heney.
Heney thinks Faro Express — which purchased and completely renovated the former Pizza Hut building — will appeal to people on their lunch break who don’t want to spend the time or money at a full-service restaurant.
The fast-casual experience cuts out much of the service, resulting in a faster, more affordable meal. Patrons walk past a chalkboard detailing the restaurant’s offerings — or pick up a paper menu — and then place their order directly with the chefs, who prepare the food to order in an open kitchen as the patron pays a cashier.
Heney said the menu has been designed so each item, with the exception of a whole pizza, will be prepared within five minutes of the customer placing the order. Often, the meal will be ready in just a couple of minutes. Patrons can choose to wait at the counter or find a seat, and their tray of food will be brought out to them.
Heney, who designed the dining room interior, recast the vintage Pizza Hut decor with a bright and clean palette featuring whites and light grays, with a few copper accents. Diners can choose a table or take a stool at a copper-topped bar, at which she has provided mobile device chargers.
Because of the pared-back service and the lighter overhead of the smaller building, food at Faro Express is less expensive than at its full-service sister restaurant. It takes a handful of employees to operate the fast-casual eatery; it takes dozens to run Faro Italian Grill.
The menu offers salads and sandwiches and a few specialty items. Heney said the create-your-own pasta, which allows diners to choose their pasta, sauce and toppings, has been surprisingly popular. Perhaps owing to why the building was available in the first place, interest in the pizza has been middling.
Though the price point is lower, the dishes feature the same fresh pasta and homemade sauces, meatballs and sausages that would be served at Faro Italian Grill. Staff will flow back and forth between the two restaurants as needed.
“I see this as more of a lunch place,” Heney said. “[Faro Italian Grill] is more of a dinner crowd.”
Faro Express’s hours are 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Heney expects to soon get a license from the state to serve beer and wine.
If the fast-casual model is as popular for Faro Express as it has been for restaurants elsewhere, the business model could proliferate around the state, said Heney.
Heney already is thinking ahead.
“We’d like to have one in Wolfeboro, Portsmouth, Manchester,” she said.