Amid fanfare, The Wrap reopens doors

by Stuart A. Reid | 11/5/04 6:00am

Bottles of Tabasco sauce still dot the tables, French art posters still decorate the red walls and 20 oz. bottles of water still cost $1.40. But now customers at The Wrap will spend noticeably less time waiting for their meals.

After a six-week hiatus, The Wrap re-opened Monday. The purpose of the break, according to general manager Matt Taylor, was to retrain old employees, hire new ones and redesign the ordering process to reduce the time spent waiting in line.

While customers previously were able to monitor -- and even micromanage -- the making of their wraps, now the process goes something more like this: order, pay, sit down and wait. Patrons might also notice a new "grab n' go" cooler and redesigned menu board.

Taylor cited low employee morale and inefficiency as the main reasons the subterranean restaurant, located at 35 South Main Street, closed temporarily. In a letter to its customers, The Wrap explained, "it wasn't the type of atmosphere we felt proud of, and something had to change."

Co-founder and CEO John Pepper '91 Tu '97 expressed excitement about the reopening and urged students to check out the improvements. He said customer satisfaction was at the heart of the closing and redesign.

"We closed for very simple reasons," Pepper said. "The reality is we weren't happy with the quality of the service we were providing. The reason we felt this was happening was because most of our employees weren't trained adequately."

Pepper also hoped the change in staffing would improve the quality of service. The restaurant previously had 25 part-time employees, whereas now it has nine full-time employees. Taylor, one such recent addition, was picked for his management experience and knowledge of the local labor market.

Pepper acknowledged that the closing cost the business revenue, but said he is confident it will reap long-term benefits.

Greg Kreischer '07, who has worked at the restaurant since February, agreed and thought the improvements were working.

"It was just to make the whole process more efficient," he said.

Most customers ordering at The Wrap Thursday afternoon said they liked the changes. Sage D'Aprile, a student from Hanover High School, noted that he spent less time waiting.

Others had mixed reactions. Lauren Sawyer, also a Hanover High student, said the changes are a trade-off.

"I kind of liked the old way, watching my food be made," Sawyer said, but noted that the whole process was much faster.

The Wrap started as a project while Pepper was a student at the Tuck School of Business and now has 10 locations, most of them in Boston. He credits his experience at Dartmouth as instilling an aversion to mediocrity.

"When you go to a place like Dartmouth, you're taught that if it's not done well it's not worth doing, and we want to do the best job possible."