Mark Kulkis went undercover for a little industrial espionage before launching his gleaming new specialty salad bar, the Chop Stop, on San Fernando Road in Burbank last week.
Kulkis was hired on at an entry-level job at a nearby chain restaurant that he declined to name. He took the job because he wanted a minimum-wage worker's eye view of restaurant operations.
"I wanted franchise experience, because that's what I hope to do," Kulkis said.
The Chop Stop serves up chopped salads with a variety of toppings and flavors, offering a health-conscious and price-conscious choice for customers. The store, in the 1001 North San Fernando Road center anchored by Henry's Farmers Market, opened to a crowd of curious shoppers and Burbank Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors on Friday.
The menu offers nearly 20 specialty salads. Customers can turn over their own leaf by selecting the greens, dressings and toppings — from almonds to edamame, or Cajun chicken to cucumbers — from an extensive list of possibilities. The restaurant also serves freshly made wraps and soups.
Kulkis said he found himself whipping up one interesting chop salad meal after another in his Silver Lake home, but when he noticed that they weren't on many local menus, he saw a window of opportunity.
"All my research indicated the time was right for this, especially in L.A.," Kulkis said.
On the same weekend, the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store at 4314 W. Magnolia Blvd. hosted a pink-carpet celebration for its grand re-opening . The store offered cones in any of its famous 31 flavors for 31 cents, as well as free treats, games and live music and DJs.
The store reopened with new owners and an updated look in November.
"We're trying to get back out there and talk to the community," co-owner Varush Tirityan said as he walked through the store offering free sundaes. Tirityan, who also runs the Baskin-Robbins franchise on 1201 S. Victory Blvd., noted the founders launched their ice cream empire out of Glendale 62 years ago and said that even with frozen yogurt shops populating the landscape, Baskin Robbins endures.
"We stay around, unlike the yogurt places that come and go," Tirityan said.
Kristen Agin, a field representative for Baskin Robbins, said the franchise has 500 stores in California, 2,700 in the United States and 6,000 around the world. Baskin-Robbins now has more than 1,000 flavors in its recipe book, she said, with a new one every month and a contest each year for customers to create a new Baskin-Robbins flavor.
But some classics remain on top. Both Tirityan and co-owner Vahe Asatryan say their favorite flavor is an old stand-by, Jamocha Almond Fudge.