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FE&SEditorial Archives2006 — May — Facility Design Project — Facility Design Project of the Month

Greystone Grill in Ellicott City/Columbia, Md.

Radiant grills, a combi steamer, sauté ranges, fryers and substantial refrigeration allow this emerging suburban restaurant chain to feature fine-dining-quality food in a casual ambiance where customers can watch the bustling kitchen’s action.

View the floorplan and equipment list.

The growth of both upscale and casual-dining steakhouses remains a decades-long phenomenon that shows no end in sight. Among the newest players are the owners of Greystone Grill, who have entered the restaurant market in two Maryland suburbs, Ellicott City, near Columbia, and Hunt Valley, near Baltimore, and will soon open a third in Rockville, near Washington, D.C.

“The mission of this chain is to create a niche between white-tablecloth, fine-dining restaurants like Ruth’s Chris and Morton’s and casual-dining restaurants like Outback Steak House,” says Chuck Gorman, consultant to Greystone Grill. “We wanted to bring what is typically an urban experience suburban, so guests don’t have to drive into a crowded downtown area and can avoid the hassle of parking.” Negotiations are currently underway for three more restaurants, two in Maryland and one in Virginia. The company will use its Rockville establishment as the prototype for the additional restaurants.

In order to fulfill the “understated elegance with a neighborhood feel” mission, the restaurants’ menus are diverse, including everything from comfort foods such as Maryland crab, baby back ribs, short ribs and crab and corn chowder to elegant items such as lamb chops, roast loin of pork, medallions of marinated and grilled beef, and high-grade filet mignon and other steaks. This extensive diversity, Gorman says, attracts regular lunch customers, many of whom work at local businesses, and dinner guests who work and/or live in the surrounding neighborhoods and want to eat out at least twice a week. Another differentiator for Greystone Grill is the offering of a dinner salad and a side included with all entrées, which provides a sharp contrast to upper-end steak houses that offer only la carte menus. “As validation of our vision,” Gorman says, “Greystone Grill was recently named the People’s Choice New Restaurant of the Year award winner by the Restaurant Association of Maryland.”

When entering the restaurant, customers see an iconic fountain made from greystone, which was inspired by a fountain that owner Mike Knapp saw in his neighbor’s backyard. “Customers walk in and want to touch it,” Gorman says. “They ask what it is made of and it becomes a conversation piece.”

In the dining rooms, which feature a minimalist design, the use of stonework, warm finishes and a color pallet of earth tones creates an elegant environment that allows the food presentation to become the center of attention. A booth cluster with plants and special lighting overhead affords privacy to guests. Throughout the dining areas, seating configurations are flexible so the restaurant can accommodate groups of various sizes without impacting the seating.

Greystone Grill also features a lounge with rich mahogany millwork and resin countertops, and a wine room with a state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment system with internet access to enhance presentations that guests may need during special events.

The restaurants also contain wine vaults that customers rent for storing their private collections, which they access when dining at the restaurant. Each vault holds 24 bottles. The largest restaurant, Ellicott City, contains 50 vaults.

A key attraction at Greystone Grill is the kitchen, where customers can watch as chefs sizzle steaks, grill and sauté other meat, poultry and fish, and create seafood specials. “In the beginning, we intended the kitchen to be completely open,” says Robert Brown, principal, Savoy Brown Foodservice Consultants. “We enclosed it in glass to reduce the noise that can distract guests. We also decided to frost the lower two feet. That way, guests can see the show, but not the backs of equipment, floors and the parts of the kitchen that can look messy during production.”

Customers can also select to sit at the 14-seat chef’s table in the kitchen and observe close-up how staff prepare up to 300 lunches and dinners each day. This, too, is enclosed in glass so guests can have privacy.

In the Rockville restaurant and subsequent units, the kitchen is reduced from 2,000-square-feet to 1,600-square-feet. “We tightened it up to minimize the kitchen space and maximize space for the bar, which has become extremely popular with the 25- to 40-year-old professionals,” Brown says. “This will help contribute to a planned, steady growth of business that is anticipated in the future.”

Among the changes in the kitchen was the elimination of a small prep area in the back that the chain intended to use to support its offsite catering, which Brown says will probably never take place. “We eliminated a hood and trimmed about $40,000 worth of peripherl equipment that we didn’t feel was needed,” he adds. “We tightened up the line to open up the prep area so it would be more productive, in part because dry storage is located directly behind it. This way, most of the garde manger is done ahead of time and moved to the main cooking line where products are turned out quickly. The most important facet of all the kitchens is their flow and efficiency, which determined the type of equipment we specified.”

For example, Brown selected lowboy refrigerators with modular cooktops and elevated cold rails holding garnishes so chefs and other kitchen staff don’t have to waste excessive steps when producing menu items. “All the ingredients needed are maintained on the line within a five- or six-foot radius,” Brown says. “In addition, the line’s design allows for a sequential flow, so staff can move menu items from one type of preparation to another.” Highly durable equipment to help staff keep up with the volume and speed was also a top priority in Brown’s E&S selections.

Brown and his partner, Ted Savoy, designed in efficiency and logical flow throughout the kitchen, starting in the back with the walk-in cooler and freezer and dry storage, which are adjacent to the prep area. Equipment in each area is easily accessible. For salad prep, staff use a manual salad spinner, lots of knives for cutting vegetables by hand and a small food processor for salad dressings that aren’t mixed by hand. According to Executive Chef Scott Walker, who brings a wealth of knowledge from his experience in restaurants in Maryland and the Carolinas, staff make 80 percent of the menu’s garde manger in this area.

Staff also use a mobile slicer and a 20-quart mixer in the cold prep area for making a few dessert items such as batter for the restaurant’s signature dessert, molten chocolate lava bamba, and crme brulee that is baked in the combi oven. No breads are made at the restaurant. This area also holds the ice storage bin and ice cuber.

On the hot line are a combi-oven steamer for preparing spinach for calamari Rockefeller, shrimps for the shrimp cocktail, lobster for a cracked lobster and seafood cocktail, and menu items such as baby back ribs before they are roasted in the final cooking process.

The combi also slow-cooks prime rib overnight. “Prepared this way, the product comes out with very little shrinkage,” Walker says. “We get only one-half pound shrinkage on a 13-pound rib. If we used traditional means of cooking the product, we’d have three pounds shrinkage. This is a big money saver.” In addition, the steamer allows Walker to buy smaller-sized and, therefore, less expensive shrimp than he would if using a standard one. When the combi is full, staff use a regular six-burner stove with a convection oven base.

“The combi stands out as one of my favorite pieces of equipment,” Walker admits, explaining that he appreciates its multiple features, including self-cleaning. In addition, he says, “This is new technology for me. It’s an awesome experience to be able to tweak the production process to account for less shrinkage and weight loss. I can design recipes for this because I know that when I pre-program this piece of equipment, products will be cooked consistently. Pre-programming is a great feature because we don’t have to worry about someone forgetting about a product having been placed in it.”

Walker and the staff prepare sauces such as the house barbecue and signature soups, including the customer favorite, roasted crab and corn chowder, in the 12-quart tilting kettle. “Though we also make sauces on the stove top, we primarily use the kettle because it’s a great piece of equipment that prevents burning,” Walker says, adding that peach chutney also is less likely to burn when made in the kettle.

On the front line, a deep fryer prepares calamari, fries, and pita chips for crab fondue that is made in the kettle. On the four-burner ranges with convection bases, staff sauté fish specials and regular menu items such as crab cakes and pasta dishes. They also heat bread and finish sauces in this equipment. A raised rail and sliding drawers contain ingredients needed throughout preparation. Walker says he particularly appreciates these pieces, because “we have ingredients at our fingertips. Equipment that can help facilitate efficiency is what we need.”

Next on the line is a charbroiler that turns out burgers, grilled tuna, salmon and other fish delivered fresh daily. A garnish pan rail is within easy reach.

Adjacent to the broiler is what Walker calls the “workhorse of the operation,” a double-stacked, 1,800°F. radiant char-grill broiler that puts the sizzle into New York strips, veal chops, filet mignon and the 22-ounce cowboy, a restaurant specialty. Staff place steaks, baby back ribs and fondue on a lower rack for finishing. A two-drawer refrigerator holds products such as fish and seafood for menu specials.

“I like the high-intensity grill because it cooks evenly, chars well on the outside and cooks thoroughly without overcooking,” Walker says. “I know the word ‘searing’ is a popular term. But, actually, you’re carmelizing the outside when using this grill.”

Refrigerated drawers under the range and in other positions on the line help staff maintain efficient production. “In general, I appreciate that prep cooks have all the mise en place in one area,” Walker says. “They shouldn’t have to move or turn very far to put on or take off food from a grill, for example.”

At the end of the line, a nearby reach-in refrigerator holds chilled plates. The line also includes soup warmers, a garnish rail to garnish plates and warming drawers for fresh heated bread.

A large beverage station includes a soda and ice dispenser, carbonators, a water station, cup and glass racks, iced-tea brewer/dispenser, three-pot coffee brewers, a coffee grinder and single-group cappuccino machines. In the back of the kitchen, a separate walk-in cooler stores beer and a built-in refrigerator cooler stores wine.

Another notable feature Walker and Brown prefer is a rubberized, waterproof, slip-resistant safety flooring system. “Unlike quarry tile floors that are fatiguing to walk on, this mat is a pleasure to walk on,” Brown says. “Also, because it is waterproof, you don’t have to replace it, which you must do with quarry tile when water gets underneath.” In addition, he notes, the 3/8-inch rubber matter is “softer” so breakage is reduced.

As Greystone Grill continues to evolve, the owners, consultants and the chef insist on continuing to improve the flow and efficiency. However, this can only be done if it supports the restaurants’ being able to maintain high standards for all facets of the operation. The E&S is a critical part of the formula to bring high-end food and service within a casual setting into more suburban locations.


The first Greystone Grill opened in February 2005 in Ellicott City, Md. The second unit opened in Hunt Valley, Md., and the third will open in Rockville, Md., in late 2006 or early 2007. The third and future restaurants will be approximately 5,500-square-feet,with approximately one-third of the space for the kitchen. Seating is designed for up to 190 guests. The Hunt Valley facility also offers outside dining. This will be included in future prototypes. The average customer count is 300; checks average $34. First-year sales are expected to exceed $3.7 million. Operating hours begin at 11:30 a.m. and end at 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; on Fridays and Saturdays, doors open at 11:30 a.m. and close at 11:30 p.m. Approximately 100 staff work at each restaurant. The investment for kitchen equipment, including E&S for service bars, is $250,000 for each restaurant. Total restaurant design investment is an average of $2 million each.

Owner: Greystone Grill®, LLC, Mike Knapp, managing member
Consultant to Greystone Grill: Chuck Gorman
Executive Chef: Scott Walker
Operating Manager: John Linderman
Inn Keeper, Ellicott City, Md.: Alan Biars
General Manager, Hunt Valley, Md.: Tom Brown
Architects: Scott Rosenberg, Rosenberg A&I, Gaithersburg, Md. (third restaurant in Rockville, Md.); Jay Brown, Baltimore (second restaurant); Fred Melby, Baltimore (first restaurant)
Interior Design: TAO Interiors, Owings, Md., Michelle Loewer; and Michelle West, Rosenberg A&I
Foodservice Design and Consulting: Robert Brown and Ted Savoy, principals of Savoy Brown Foodservice Consultants, Jessup, Md.
Kitchen Equipment Dealer: Ashland Equipment, Rob White, Belcamp, Md.
General Contractor: Chesapeake Contracting, Reisterstown, Md.


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