The historic art deco building in East Elmhurst, Queens, dates to 1953 when the Bulova Watch Co. opened it as a combination world headquarters and manufacturing facility. It was later sold to the Blumenfeld Development Group (BDG) real estate firm, which turned it into an ultra-modern, Class A office center with touches like a soaring atrium and public spaces that offer waterfalls and quiet areas with rotating exhibits from the Queens Museum of Art.
You may have seen it take a star turn as one of the settings in the 2013 Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Such a fine structure—and the tenant firms and their some 1,600 employees that inhabit it—deserve a café that complements such an exotic environment from the culinary side, and that has been the challenge presented to Lessing’s Food Service Management, a locally based, family-owned contract foodservice and restaurant management firm that took over operation of the onsite café this past June. Lessing renovated the space over the next few months, having the work done during nights and weekends to keep from disrupting daytime operations.
The new space was finally unveiled this past November as the 10:10 Café, boasting a U-shaped servery with five stations housing Lessing’s house brand names. They are the Home Zone entrée concept, the Sensational Sandwiches deli concept, the Just Grillin’ grill, Uncle Tony’s Pizza and the Salad Central spin salad concept where customized salads are prepared by chefs specifically to customer requests from an array of several dozen topping choices.
“It’s a beautiful cafeteria with digital menu boards [where food is] all custom made to order and we rotate the menu almost every day to give people plenty of variety,” says Kevin Lessing, the company’s executive director. “The individual who ran it before us was here for 10 years and ran what was basically a mom-and-pop operation, so we had to go in and spruce it up.”
The “sprucing” included the menu boards as well as some new equipment and “lots of paint for a much cleaner look,” Lessing observes.
The 10:10 Café, open 6:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, sees up to a thousand customers daily, with Home Zone, Uncle Tony’s and Salad Central drawing the most diners. A particularly popular regular event is Waffle Wednesdays, when custom-made waffles are served all day.
“Sometimes, people will come in and just have waffles and ice cream for lunch,” Lessing laughs.
One advantage the café has is that the Bulova Center has limited parking for employees, so “it’s tough to get out for lunch,” Lessing says, though “there are plenty [of local restaurants] that deliver.”
Transaction counts are also boosted by customers coming in from outside as the 10:10 is open to walk-ins.
“There are couple places nearby like a school for the deaf [from where people] come in, and they also use us occasionally for catering and things like that,” Lessing says. Catering business from the 10:10 production kitchen is also boosted by serving in-house business meetings and functions, and the Bulova Center also includes an onsite conference center that is available to both in-house and outside clients, and which is generally catered by the cafe.
So far, the client is very pleased with the new foodservice being offered in it iconic facility.
“We are thrilled to provide our tenants and the local community with a first-class dining experience led by the Lessing’s Food Service Management,” said BDG Vice President Brad Blumenfeld in a statement announcing the updated cafe’s opening. “It’s was only natural to have an industry leader in the foodservice/restaurant business who can offer the most up-to-date food choices to operate the café. There has been an extremely positive reception within the community to Lessing’s performance and food offerings.”