Behind the Scenes: Buzz Bait Taqueria

Randal Retail - Chicago Buzz Bait Restaurant

When the esteemed Chicago deep-dish pizza chain owner, Marc Malnati came knocking with an opportunity to convert a former Subway storefront into their new, west coast inspired fish taco shack concept, Randal took the bait. Where the company’s existing millwork provider balked at highly custom metalwork, granite bar tops and a seemingly impossible scheduled opening, Randal was up to the challenge.

The vision for the new spot was unique from the start. “They wanted it to look like a place that had been closed up and forgotten about for the last 100 years,” explained Michael Kunert, Randal’s VP of Operations. “And then when the door was finally re-opened, this is what they found.” Instead of shiny new finishes, the restaurant wanted exposed weld marks, industrial hot-rolled steel and vintage mirrored “windows” with custom metal “shutters.” The centerpiece of their design was an impressive cover for the kitchen hood encompassing the length of the bar, made from what resembles steel salvaged from a retired submarine.

It was an impressive vision, and it also had to be executed within the client’s budget. Team Randal sat down with the Lou Malnati’s executives and deconstructed the design, suggesting places they could value engineer at each step. Adjustments were also made for function and durability: latches on the metal shutters were made extra thick and welded on so they didn’t fall prey to customers’ tinkering. The decorative hood cover needed an easy access panel for frequent hood maintenance and cleaning. “As a brand new concept, the process was highly collaborative,” said Michael. “Marc Malnati himself (Lou’s eldest son) had a say in the final design and finishes.”

Randal Retail - Chicago Buzz Bait Restaurant

“This project was ‘all hands on deck’ because the timeline was 30 to 40 percent shorter than what’s typical for a first-time job,” said Chuck Bray, VP of Marketing and Sales. “We knew there was no time for second drafts, so instead of relying on the contractor, we went to the site and took all the measurements ourselves. We leaned heavily on our engineering experience and software capabilities, and turned to a couple of select vendor partners to fabricate the metalwork we engineered and source and temper the vintage glass. Michael and our foremen were in the field installing, tripping over plumbers and electricians because all the vendors were in there at the same time. It was intense, but the finished product was worth it.”

For more photos of Buzz Bait Taqueria, view our Restaurant Portfolio.

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