Honest Weight at the Empire State Plaza

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Last spring, when the Honest Weight Food Co-op Café closed up shop at the Empire State Plaza (ESP), it seemed that we were ending a three-year run of serving up local, organic lunches to state workers and visitors. Many regarded our parting with the NYS Office of General Services as a lamentable decision which left a void at the food court. As reported right here in the Voice, times and contracts had changed. Now, things have changed again. We’re back at the Plaza!

The Honest Weight Food Co-op Café is located in the Main Food Court of the Empire State Plaza and is open from 10:30am to 2:30pm, Monday through Friday. The beautifully updated menu consists of lunch items and a simplified pricing scheme, comparable with offerings at the Albany store. The signature sandwiches, soups and salads abound, and boxed lunches are prominently offered. Organic juices and smoothies, along with other hot and cold beverages, are available too! It is all delightful!

Creating The New Honest Weight Food Co-op Café

How did this fortunate turn-around happen? There were major changes and it was a methodical process, according to the Food Service Manager, Dan Hurlbut. He stressed how positive the process was, noting that “The folks at Empire State Plaza really listened to our requests and did go the extra mile to make sure we were happy.” Plans for the new Café began with the Honest Weight Food Co-op (HWFC) Marketing Department working with the ESP to bring the feel of the Albany Store to the Plaza Concourse in a way that is true to our brand. Some of the changes were structural. Suggestions came from Employees and Managers alike as on-site meetings took place. One such development was a new cutout window to highlight our organic juice and show off the juicer and the juicing process. Additionally, the wall surfaces were simplified to facilitate painting with bright, fresh colors and to serve as a background for two large Honest Weight logos.

The new wall menu also adds to visibility and ease of understanding. The “order here” and “checkout” signs are an attractive way to direct traffic and keep the process orderly. Even the lighting is coordinated with the new look. Dan credits Digital Xpress (DXP), a local printer, with being a great partner in this process, as they printed, fabricated, and installed the components. This spruced up environment is completed by a team dressed in HWFC t-shirts, and with products labeled as they are in the store: “Vegan,” “Paleo,” “Vegetarian,” “Gluten Free,” and so forth.

Everyone seems delighted to have HWFC back at the Plaza. Dan says, “When we had meetings on site…We always had folks talking about how nice and friendly our team was…We really were missed and we are loved at ESP.”

Gail Volk wrote to the Voice last spring when the Café closed its doors, saddened by the news. Now she is quite satisfied with the reopening. She and her friends are enjoying the delicious soups and salads once again and she is interested in the soup and sandwich lunch deal. When asked what she likes best, Gail said, “My favorites include the massaged kale and quinoa salad. Today’s soup was fantastic – West African Peanut. Very flavorful without being too spicy hot.”

Looking Ahead

Dan Hurlbut has some ideas about what is next for the HWFC Café at ESP. He calls it ‘Phase Two.’ He wants to capture and use customer feedback to tweak any necessary changes in lighting and/or signage and continue to communicate our unique brand identity. Dan is open to new ways to present gift cards, soups of the day, specials, and catering – particularly during the holiday season. Video screens are on his list, too!

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Karla Guererri has been a Co-op Member-Owner for several years. She works in the field of education and lives in Troy.