‘Wich Please and Comida restaurant are shacking up!

Posted:  Friday, October 9, 2015 - 3:00pm

ROCKLAND — Kickstarter-funded food truck 'Wich Please is becoming roomies with Comida, a downtown Rockland restaurant with a Spanish flare. Using a symbiosis strategy, 'Wich Please will operate during the day hours, using the restaurant space as they churn out their signature sandwiches, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then clear out in the afternoon so that Comida can run dinner service, from 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. In the Midcoast, this kind of collaboration between a restaurant and a food truck is the first of its kind, but all systems are go and the arrangement kicks off Oct. 10.

Comida co-owners Tom Sigler and his wife, Lisa Laurita-Spanglet, were trying to find an innovative solution to running lunch service without stretching their resources and staff too thin, and she happened to reach out via Facebook to ‘Wich Please food truck owner and chef Malcolm Bedell. The message was brief — would he be interested in bringing his business and staff in to their space for the winter?

“Her message basically detailed everything I’d been thinking about doing with my business,” said Bedell. “We’d just got this momentum going with the food truck and now that’s it’s October, it just seemed a shame to disappear for six months.”

The trio hit it off.  “We’d never met before,” said Bedell. “But once we did, we could both tell we were going to get along just fine.”

Even better: ‘Wich Please’s weekly Monday “India Night” dinner — originally started as a takeout concept — will now have table service and a full bar with the two businesses collaborating on some weekly cocktail pairings as well.

Beyond the host restaurant giving the food truck a home in the winter, there are numerous benefits for both businesses to this arrangement.

“There are two major benefits for us,” said Laurita-Spanglet. “One, we don’t have to overwork our staff. Summer is busy enough, but we didn’t want to burn them out going into winter and of course, the second benefit of combining financial resources is paramount for the winter.”

“To characterize my business as operating on a shoestring is putting it mildly,” said Bedell. “To take this idea of ‘Indian Night’ and do it as a full service dinner wasn’t going to be in the cards for me for a long time, so the ability to borrow and hire each other’s staff is great. It gives people who would have had to be on part-time schedules the chance to work full time year-round. When we put the same amount of investment into our service help, we both reap the benefits of that.”

As an added bonus, the two eateries realized that in sharing their space, they’ve strengthened their brands with this collaboration. Locals loyal to each are already wild about the idea on social media.

“There’s a level of quality with Malcolm’s food that we knew would work with the way we do things too,” said Laurita-Spanglet.

This week they’ve all been working on pre-planning and logisitics before the combined new opening. “We realized we’ll have an overlap where we’ll be breaking down, as they set up,” said Bedell. Not sure how it’s all going to sort out, everyone has faith it’s going to be just fine.

“It’s funny, Tom and Lisa were apologizing how small the kitchen is and it’s easily a ten-fold increase for me,” said Bedell. “The fact that I can’t touch either wall with both hands is a big step up,” he joked.

Asked what other restaurants and food trucks would need in order to do what they’re doing, Laurita-Spanglet said, “I think you have to have an open personality, and establish a trust factor. This is just a new way to explore a new model of business.”

Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com