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VOL. 127 | NO. 114 | Tuesday, June 12, 2012

‘Fun Food Fast’

Popular restaurateur Crimmins returns to I-Bank Tower with Foozi West

By Sarah Baker

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After a five-year hiatus, fast-casual restaurant Foozi has returned to the I-Bank Tower at 5050 Poplar Ave. while retaining its other location next door at Clark Tower.

Candice Morris prepares a mayonnaise spread at Foozi West in the I-Bank Tower, 5050 Poplar Ave. Restaurant owner John Crimmins has returned to the building where he started his fast-casual concept. 

(Photo:  Lance Murphey)

John Crimmins, owner of Foozi, recently signed a 1,605-square-foot lease at the base of I-Bank Tower (formerly White Station Tower), and celebrated his grand opening last week. It’s the space where he started the “fun food fast” concept in 1999 before relocating to a bigger space in the ground floor of Clark Tower at 5100 Poplar Ave. in 2007.

Crimmins has 25 years of high-end restaurant experience, from the old Dux in The Peabody hotel to the former Café Espresso in The Ridgeway Inn. When he decided to open his own business, the office tower environment was appealing for a variety of reasons.

“The wonderful thing about an office tower is that defines your operating days and hours,” Crimmins said. “And it gives you a readily available market. It works well in close confines like this where somebody gets in the elevator and says, ‘That smells good, what is it and where’d you get it?’ Very often, we don’t have to spend a lot of money to reach people.”

While the typical quick-service restaurant spends anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent on marketing, Crimmins is able to save on his marketing expenses due to his locale and tolerate higher food costs.

“If a chain spends 8 percent on marketing and runs a 24, 25 percent food cost, my thought is, ‘Why don’t we run a 32, 33 percent food cost and take those marketing dollars and put them on the plate and then people will do our word-of-mouth marketing for us,’” Crimmins said.

Foozi West, as the new restaurant in I-Bank Tower is called, has a core menu of about 20 popular menu items like sandwiches and wraps that are identical to Foozi East in Clark Tower.

Foozi West, however, differs from its easterly store with its build-your-own burger and a “high-quality, intensely-flavored salad bar” option.

“It’s important to me that we have high-quality, healthy options for those that want them,” Crimmins said. “We’ll have oven-baked fries – you can’t have burgers without fries, but you can have fries without a lot of grease.”

Pizza and rotisserie will remain at Foozi East, while Foozi West will eventually be the commissary for both locations’ expanded pastry offerings, “just to take advantage of what works well in what place.”

Foozi West is opening in the I-Bank Tower at 5050 Poplar Ave. The company, owned by John Crimmins, also runs Foozi East in neighboring Clark Tower. 

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

One constant among both Foozi West and Foozi East will be living up to the “fun food fast” brand.

“One of the things we’ve learned pretty early on in this is the two currencies of lunch are both cash and time,” Crimmins said. “It doesn’t matter what you charge if you can’t get people out with something pretty quickly that they can’t afford to miss what’s waiting for them back at work.”

And it’s a model that the powers that be appreciate, Crimmins said.

“If we can create a situation where they have a good quality, good value in-house dining solution, then I think that helps put tenants in the office space,” Crimmins said. “There are a half dozen people that leased because we were here.”

Colliers Asset Services took over the leasing and property management of the 22-story, 276,229-square-foot I-Bank Tower in 2007. Laura Taylor, Colliers vice president of office leasing, brokered the new Foozi deal.

“He kind of looks at it like he’s coming home,” Taylor said. “There’s just a lot of excitement in the building that he’s back. He has quite a loyal following in 5050.”

One of those devotees is Jim Forbis of CFH Financial. He’s not only an advocate for the food, but also for Crimmins.

“I’ve always been a fan of John’s,” Forbis said. “He’s always been very kind, full of bad jokes and good food. I was sorry to see him leave a couple of years ago and really glad to have them back. John and Foozi’s has provided one of the best quality foods, one of the friendliest of attitudes that we’ve ever had here.”

The décor for Foozi West was advised by Doug Enoch of T. Douglas Enoch Architects & Associates, a friend and customer of Crimmins since his original opening in 1999. And Paul Tomes of WorldSpice assisted with low voltage, computer, cabling and Internet. Both are tenants of the tower.

“John’s relationship with Doug is indicative in a lot of ways of how this building works – everybody does business with each other,” Taylor said. “We’re thrilled to have John coming back because his being here is going to foster even more relationships between the tenants.

“One of the reasons why John has been so successful is because he’s there every day, people know him, he shakes their hand. I’ve been in the business almost 20 years and it is so rare to see a very successful deli in a building because you have a limited captive audience.”

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751