Zebu Forno Opens On Downtown Freehold'S "Restaurant Row"

European-style bakery-café brings dramatic new look inside and out to site of former Cornerstone Café; business off to a "very strong start"

March 03, 2009 // Franchising.com // Red Bank, N.J. — Zebu Forno is off to "a very strong start" in its new location in the heart of downtown Freehold's "restaurant row," according to company president Andrew Gennusa.

The European-style bakery-café chain opened its third Monmouth County location and fourth unit statewide earlier last month at the site of the former Cornerstone Café at the intersection of West Main Street and South Street (Route 79). Zebu completed a sweeping renovation of the 2,300-square-foot store's interior and exterior to give the space a look that provides the eclectic, but warm, "town gathering place" feel that local diners have embraced at its flagship location in downtown Red Bank and franchised location in Holmdel. The chain also made extensive improvements to the exterior of the three-story building, which houses offices on the upper levels.

"Despite this difficult economy, business has been very brisk, especially during our afternoon and evening day-parts," said Gennusa. "This very strong start confirms our belief that this 'main and main' location in Monmouth County's seat would fulfill our requirements for foot traffic and visibility. We couldn't be more pleased with the reception we have received from area residents of all ages and people working in Freehold's government offices, courthouse and local businesses."

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 store also features the chain's newly launched "Kid's Menu," offering full meals of grilled cheese, chicken strips, pizza bagels or peanut butter and jelly priced at $3.49.

From a design standpoint, the chain's locations 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 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 Freehold location offers seating for 70 diners inside. In warm-weather, seating will be available for another 10 to 12 diners outside in a sidewalk café area accessible from French doors.

On the building's exterior, improvements undertaken by Zebu included a full repainting of the façade to conform to the chain's color scheme, decorative awnings over all storefront windows, new lighting that subtly illuminates the structure from top to bottom, as well as major enhancements to the area that leads from the store's rear entrance to the municipal parking lot.

"In addition to creating work for the many contractors who executed the radical transformation of this space, we are also pleased to have generated jobs for our 22 employees in Freehold," said Gennusa.

Located at 2 East Main Street, Zebu's Freehold café is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Monday-Friday; 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Zebu's flagship company-owned location opened in 2001 on Broad Street in downtown Red Bank. 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. An additional franchised location is expected to open this spring in downtown Morristown, N.J., as the company moves 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.

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