Arts & Entertainment and Food Service & Agriculture

Kitchen 67 is preparing to open

August 13, 2012
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When Kitchen 67 Brann’s Café opens to the public Aug. 25, customers will find a new type of restaurant that promises bold flavors and more high-tech advancements than any other dining spot can claim. At the same time, customers will find a restaurant designed with assistance from a coalition of businesses and will order from a menu that had input from a combination of chefs.

Johnny Brann Jr., who came up with the concept for Kitchen 67, said he worked with Apple Inc., Meijer, Audio Space, Custer Office Environments, Fulton Innovation, Gentex, Verizon Wireless, design expert Robert Israels, and Chris Ake, a Grand Valley University graduate, to develop the nuances that mark his new restaurant.

“What’s been great about this project is there have been so many local partnerships, as well as some of the companies are local leaders in technology. It’s pretty cool that West Michigan has that to offer and for us to work together on a project like this,” he said.

Brann kicked off his idea by talking with the folks at Apple in Cupertino, Calif., about the design and layout. The restaurant will be equipped with digital-menu screens, large-touch kiosks, digital posters and iPads.

“There will be certain sections where there will be a niche for everybody, whether it’s news, current events or entertainment, that people will be able to enjoy while they’re there,” he said.

Audio Space of Grand Rapids integrated the restaurant’s high-tech features. “These guys are really the key in putting all of this together and did all of the installation. They’re a great company to work with and they’re the best at what they do,” he said.

Custer Office Environments, also in Grand Rapids, is working with Brann on a tech project he didn’t disclose at this point. “They’re amazing, too,” he said.

Brann told the Business Journal he bought the site at 1977 East Beltline Ave. NE from Meijer, which has its Knapp’s Corner Superstore nearby. It’s an additional location for him, as he manages the Brann’s Sizzling Steaks and Sports Grille at 401 Leonard St. NW. He said he chose the site for multiple reasons.

“First, it’s in the city of Grand Rapids. I was working with Meijer to determine a good site for this type of a fast, casual restaurant and I looked at all the out lots they had available. I looked at other possibilities, but I did want to form a partnership with Meijer. I happened to see this lot and I asked Meijer if it was available,” he said.

“There was a 10-year, no-build (restriction) on the site and it had actually just expired. I was lucky, and it all happened at just the right time. Meijer was fantastic to work with. They were very helpful and helped us facilitate some other conversations.”

On top of those reasons, Brann said he finds that part of the city a beautiful area that reminds him of his youth; he attend school in the Forest Hills district. He also knows a lot of the business owners in that northeast sector.

Brann said Fulton Innovation of Ada, a technology firm launched by Amway, designed and installed the wireless charging technology at Kitchen 67. He said he also was working with Gentex, a Holland company noted for its electro-optical technology. “It’s hard to explain what it is,” he said of what the two have cooked up. “But it’s in a prototype form right now and we’re looking to finalize that. It’s very unique and it displays what Gentex is capable of producing.”

Verizon Wireless will be the restaurant’s wireless provider — and neighbor. Verizon is opening a store in the same building Kitchen 67 will occupy. Brann will lease the space to the firm. “It’s going to be in the top two or three in the Midwest as far as being a prototype store for them,” said Brann, who added he expects Verizon to make its debut shortly after his restaurant opens.

“And Bob Israels was an intricate part of the entire project design. It was just an amazing group of people that I was able to work with through this process. It made me proud to be involved in it because there are so many great people and resources in the community to work with.”

The menu will offers burgers, sandwiches, including a new sizzler entry, ribs, wings, hot-pressed sandwiches, house specials that Brann called “his secret weapons,” salads, soups and gluten-free items all under a theme that Brann has labeled as “bold flavors.”

“We developed this menu with a team of people: my vendors and my chefs. We had a good dozen-or-so people working on this for a good year-and-a-half and we did a lot of research around the country. We did a ton of test kitchens. I was able to provide a vision of high-flavored and bold-flavored foods to keep a theory of innovation going,” he said.

“Primarily, it’s all about the food. That’s what I love and that’s what my family has been into for a long time. This is really a menu that was created from all around the country from different people, and my vendors, chefs and I were able to put it all together. So we’re creating an innovative menu and recipes that we will also be able to transfer into the design and layout of the restaurant, as well.”

Brann also has developed a premium brand of coffee that, he said, won a number of taste tests. The restaurant will have a drive-thru for coffee, pastry, bagels, scones and sweet breads throughout the day. Customers will be able to order online at kitchen67.com or use an app on their mobile devices.

The name of the restaurant, Kitchen 67, honors Brann’s grandfather, John, because 1967 was the year his trademark item, the sizzler, established the family’s name in the industry. Today, the Brann family operates 10 restaurants across the state.

The building that houses Kitchen 67 and Verizon in its 7,900 square feet was designed by Jeffrey Parker Architects and built by Lang Construction Co. Brann has invested about $3 million into his new venture. He plans to have Kitchen 67 open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days, but he might keep it open until 11p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday hours are likely to be 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. “But that could change, potentially,” he said.

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