2007-08-19

Breakfast at Java's Brewin in Cranford

After our traditional early morning workout at the Westfield Y, we originally wanted to go to Bovella's to get some of their sensational croissants. But then we remembered that we had seen a new place in Cranford that looked like a coffee house that also had advertised a variety of food options. Curious as we are we decided to go there and check it out.

Java's Brewin is a franchise concept that is proposing an alternative to Starbucks. With a similar focus on high quality (and high-margin) coffee drinks and a pleasant atmosphere to hang out. However, they have added a much broader food selection. Starbucks typically only has some bakery food items like croissants, scones, muffins, etc. (some locations also have pre-made and pre-packaged sandwiches). Java's Brewin tries to attack Starbucks at that front: It offers a more comprehensive selection of typical breakfast and lunch food items (salads, sandwiches, soup). It also offers free WIFI supposedly at all locations. You can get WI-FI at Starbucks via T-Mobile at a significant fee. With a lot of other places offering it for free, I think Starbucks' approach to WI-FI is anachronistic. I typically go to Panera, Cosi or some other place if I need WI-FI. And I believe I'm not the only customer that Starbucks has lost this way.

The web site of Java's Brewin is more targeting potential entrepreneurs that are interested in a franchise opportunity, not so much the (potential) customer. Some of the individual locations seem to have their own web sites, however not the one in Cranford (yet).

When we came there at 8:15 or so there was nobody else in the restaurant. The atmosphere is nice, well lighted, comfortable and cosy enough to hang out and do some work on the computer as needed.
They actually do have on impressive and interesting sounding selection of breakfast and lunch food items on the menu and on display in the glass counter. The fact that the sandwiches, quesadillas, etc. are on display there also means they are not made fresh to order like at Panera or Cosi.

The menu claims that they are made fresh daily. In my world that would imply that they are also only offered that same day they were made. However, it doesn't say that explicitly, so I'm curious. Next time I'm there, I will verify this.

They told us that the place has opened about two weeks ago. Considering that, they should have gotten over the typical start up operational problems by now. But unfortunately they haven't.

My wife ordered a breakfast wrap. This is pre-made and it took some time to find it among all the sandwiches in the counter. I had a classic ham, egg and cheese on a bagel breakfast sandwich, which is freshly put together, with the (really small) egg patty being pre-made. They seemingly have problems operating the toaster so the first bagel was burned to be pretty much black on one side. I requested it not to be used. The second attempt was better but still not perfect. My wife's sandwich was in the contact grill and seemingly nobody watched over its progress. So my wife had to remind them to avoid it getting it burned, too, and saved them from another small disaster.

The whole process of putting together these sandwiches took a rather long time. I'm curious to see how they deal with their order processing when the customers line up during peak time. Operating the cash register and putting the right items at the right price in was another drama that we got sorted out after a while.

The sandwich wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either, essentially the sum of its parts. I have had much better breakfast sandwiches at other places around here. At $3.00 ($2.25 for the sandwich plus $.75 for the meat) the price is OK. My wife felt the same about her El Ranchero Burrito: Not bad, but nothing special. So what about the coffee? This was a highlight. I really don't like the fairly bitter coffee you get at Starbucks, so I was glad to see that they have a few options at Java's Brewin that are not dark roast and I really liked their house blend.

While we were enjoying our breakfast a few more clients came in and we could observe some additional customer service and food preparation problems. The staff behind the counter is friendly and tries very hard. However, it seems management doesn't care too much about training their folks and refining the operational processes of the place.

Overall, the Java's Brewin in Cranford, NJ could be a very nice coffee house to hang out, enjoy a java drink and have a good breakfast or lunch. Most of the lunch food items on display actually looked pretty good and I'm sure we will be back to try them.

In summary, we have an excellent promising concept that unfortunately is undermined by less than average execution. I'm really concerned that management after only a few weeks since opening doesn't seem to be involved in day to day operations any more and lets an under-trained staff figure things out by trial and error. I'm hoping for the best, as I really would like to see them succeed.

Signing Off - The Westfield Blogger.

2 comments:

Ted from Garwood said...

I went there just a few days ago based on your review. They are still a bit chaotic but very friendly. And the sandwiches are not bad at all. If they get their logistics in order this could become a really nice place.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog & I have been to a lot of the same places you have reviewed. My husband & I love the coffee at Java's but I drink decaf and have gotten several cups with grinds. We heard they were working on fixing the problem. I found the staff to be very confused as well! Great blog!