By Justin Sapolsky W’08/WG’14 (Team Leader) and Nicole Capp WG’14 (Team Member) for Matt & Marie’s
Matt & Marie’s is a modern Italian sandwich store, bringing great food and hospitality elements of fine dining to an efficient fast service setting.
What’s new and exciting about your business?
Our inner foodie is really excited about the food at Matt & Marie’s. We teamed up with our talented culinary artist, Chef Ryan Smith, to build a fun, intensely delicious menu. The idea is to take many of the traditional Italian sandwiches that we love and put a chef-inspired spin on them. Chef Ryan runs some fantastic high end sandwich and wine pairing classes in New York City, so he was perfect for the role. He built our menu to hit on all five flavor profiles in every bite: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami.
We are also really excited about creating a great experience to match the food. We worked with a local architect to take elements of the restaurants our customers visit on the weekend and bring them into a fast lunch setting. As Wharton operations junkies, we spent a lot of time seeking solutions to the operational hiccups that we all notice in restaurants. We think that those elements are all really going to combine for an exciting dining experience.
How did you come up with this idea?
This idea was always on the “wouldn’t it be nice if” list for both of our founders. Nicole grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, which is the kind of place where people go to four different specialty shops to get the components for just one lunch (Nicole likes Pisa for fresh mozzarella cheese, Coluccio & Sons for cured meats, Boccia for the bread, and Pastosa for a side of stuffed peppers). Justin is so fanatical about sandwiches that he had started home baking his own bread around the time he met Nicole at a startup event. We each described our vision of the perfect sandwich that first day, and it was uncannily similar for both of us. In the year that followed, the concept has been refined and tested extensively, but is still very much aligned with that first conversation.
What does it mean to you to one of the “Great Eight” finalists in the Wharton Business Plan Competition?
We chose to start a restaurant because we strongly believe in great hospitality. We can think back to some stressful days at work, and the way just a 15 minute escape to a satisfying meal and an employee’s smile at our favorite sandwich spot lifted our spirits. Our business is all about sharing that experience, so getting the message out through the Wharton Business Plan Competition is very exciting. The more people who know about what we are doing, the more people who will come share the experience with us.
Also, we love Philadelphia and its food scene, which is why we chose to base Matt & Marie’s in Philly. We will be opening our first location on 18th and Arch Street in Philadelphia this summer. Being a finalist is a great opportunity to bring attention to the growing number of students who come from all over and plan to stay in Philadelphia and build great businesses here.
And finally, there are some really bright people who organize, judge and support the competition. It means a great deal to us to have their input on the idea and business. Our company will be stronger because of the experience, and we are grateful for the support and advice.
If you win the Perlman Grand Prize ($30,000 prize, $10,000 in legal services, $5,000 in accounting/strategy services), what will you do with these resources?
Ground has already been broken on the construction of our first store, and we are looking forward to opening our doors in Center City. We are really excited for that opening. In our search for a location, we found several great neighborhoods where we would love to bring Matt & Marie’s food and concept. The legal and accounting services associated with the Perlman Grand Prize would go straight to helping structure Matt & Marie’s for that next step in the company’s growth, and the prize funding would go into our budget to bring the concept to a new location in Philadelphia. We are big believers in the opportunity, and would love to see it become a reality even faster with the help of the Perlman Grand Prize.
Nicole’s great-grandparents immigrated to Brooklyn from Italy and opened an Italian grocery and sandwich shop in Brooklyn. We have a lot of great pictures of the old store and family traditions that we are bringing to Matt & Marie’s.
Justin had a background as an investor, but actually wrote about his long term goal to open and run restaurants in his entrance essays to Wharton. We are really glad that Admissions took a gamble on the sandwich guy!