November 24, 2008 // Franchising.com // Red Bank, N.J. —The aromas and warmth of old-world Europe's popular bakery-cafés will be coming to Morristown early next year when Zebu Forno makes its Morris County debut just across from the downtown's Green.
Melione Fratello LLC, the newest franchisee in the New Jersey chain, has signed a lease for 2,500 square feet at 9 South Street. Zebu—which offers fare for the morning, afternoon and evening day-parts—will occupy a portion of the former Footlocker store on the street level of a two-story building now undergoing a major facelift by new owners the Cavanaugh family, which has operated a variety of businesses in Morristown over the last 30 years. According to Andrew Gennusa, president of Zebu Forno Franchise LLC, the restaurant will offer seating for 60 to 70 patrons inside, as well as sidewalk café seating during warm weather.
When it opens in the first quarter of 2009, the Morristown Zebu will become the fifth café for the Red Bank-based chain, whose network currently includes locations in Red Bank, Holmdel and Hoboken. Earlier this month, the company announced that it had signed a lease for a fourth location in Freehold that is expected to open in January 2009.
Zebu Forno's extensive menu includes fresh-baked breads, muffins, bagels, and pastries; breakfast sandwiches; omelets; homemade soups; Panini sandwiches, wraps and other hot and cold sandwiches served on home-baked breads; handmade thin-crust pizzas; fresh salads; quiche; gelato; fresh fruit cups; espresso drinks; a variety of coffees and teas; and a soft drink selection that includes Boylan's soda on tap. All menu items are available for takeout, augmented by a selection of Zebu travel mugs, shirts, caps and other branded items merchandised throughout the stores.
The chain's locations are designed to convey a sense of a 'town gathering place'—a relaxed setting where people of all ages can meet and sit for hours without feeling pressured. Features include free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs, satellite music, brick walls, wood plank flooring, original murals celebrating great artists of the past, and seating at conventional tables, stool-height tables and groupings of Indonesian roll back easy chairs. The café's oven and baking preparation area are strategically situated at the front of the store to allow patrons and passersby to view the baking process first-hand.
Zebu's Morristown space is situated two doors down from a mixed-use project being built on the site of the former Epstein's department store. Upon completion, the project will include a luxury high-rise condominium building with streetfront retail and a new municipal parking garage in the rear. The garage opened this fall.
"This location is a '10' in a vibrant downtown where fine and mid-priced dining establishments have long benefited from the daytime traffic generated by the Morris County courthouse and offices; law firms, financial services firms, retailers and other businesses that make this county seat home; as well as major pharmaceutical companies and other large employers nearby," said Gennusa. "Added to that are the area residents and visitors coming to the theaters, museums and historic sites in and outside of town."
Franchisee Melione Fratello LLC was formed by the Melione family of Wayne, N.J. to own and operate the Morristown café. Daily operations of the business will be directed by brothers Vincent and Michael Melione, with parents Frank and Helene, and sister Francesca lending a hand on evenings and weekends. All members of the family have prior experience in foodservice or retailing, with Vincent previously spending six years managing two delis in nearby Passaic County and Michael currently working in retail operations at Game Day Sports in Wayne. Earlier in their careers, Frank worked as a restaurant cook and Helene as a waitress and hostess. Francesca, now attending college, has also worked as a waitress and hostess.
Commenting on the family's decision to acquire a Zebu franchise, Helene Melione said: "We had looked around at various franchises and other business opportunities for about a year, but when we walked into the Zebu in Red Bank, we knew this was the right concept for us. We loved the food and the atmosphere. Zebu has a very warm, homey feel. It's the kind of place where you can have a meal with friends or family and not feel pressured to leave. We're thrilled to be introducing this concept to Morristown, where we will be getting in on the ground floor of the revitalization of the downtown block that had been anchored by Epstein's."
Gennusa, in turn, is pleased to have the Meliones in the Zebu family. "Vincent and Michael have the drive, desire and people skills to succeed in this business. They also bring the support of family members who bring an equal amount of enthusiasm and foodservice experience to the table. We look forward to them becoming an important part of the Morristown business community for years to come."
Zebu's flagship company-owned location opened in 2001 on Broad Street in Red Bank—a successful downtown with similar demographics to Morristown. The brand launched its franchise program in 2007 with the opening of a 3,000-square-foot location in The Commons at Holmdel lifestyle center on Highway 35 in northern Monmouth County. This was followed earlier this year with the opening of another franchised location on River Street in Hoboken, as the company moved forward on its plan to develop into a regional chain with 10 franchised locations in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania over a three to five-year period.