Hannah's Bretzel founder Florian Pfahler
Hannah’s Bretzel, a local mini-chain of European-inspired sandwich shops, plans to open a fifth location this spring in the West Loop at 555 W. Monroe St., about two blocks from both Ogilvie Train Station and Union Station.
At 3,000 square feet, it is similar in square footage to the River North location, although it’s a very different layout. “The one at LaSalle and Hubbard is very long and narrow. This one is going to be much more square,” said founder Florian Pfahler. He expects to have around 60 seats when the restaurant opens in March.
The West Loop location will serve the same menu as the existing locations. “Our customers will eat the same sandwich again and again and again. I have customers who have come to Hannah’s Bretzel for three years, and they only ate one sandwich. They do not want change,” said Pfahler. “We took one sandwich off [the menu] one time and I got hate emails!”
Backlash aside, the restaurant did make one small change this month: It’s done away with the bragel (the pretzel/bagel-like bread used for breakfast sandwiches) and replaced it with the wecken, a kind of German roll that is pronounced “vecken." In addition to aligning more closely with the restaurant’s European slant –“Bagels is really an American bread and we’re a European-inspired concept,” said Pfahler—it also improves efficiency and cuts down on food waste.
“The bragel not being used in the afternoon meant that in the morning, if you didn’t sell it, then the rest of the bragel is basically thrown out. Even though we tried to connect the Chicago Food Depository or other non-profit organizations to maybe give them our bread, funny enough there was always liability issues so we could never really establish that,” he said. “So at the end of the day, it gets dumped, which is paining me because we’re doing organic bread with organic flour, organic butter and … there are so many people that are hungry.”
In addition to replacing the bragel in breakfast sandwiches, the wecken has replaced the half bretzel (the name for Hannah’s signature pretzel baguette) used in the salad/soup-half sandwich combo served during lunch. Pfahler said he is considering expanding the use of the wecken to sandwiches sold on their own as a smaller alternative to the full-size bretzel sandwiches, but that move has not yet been finalized.
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