Guelph ON- Dee Hernandez and Jules Van Bergen, founders and operators of Pressed for Time Paninis, met and began working together in 2012. They quickly discovered, they shared similar values, ambition, and wanted to start their own business- and that’s how pressed for Time paninis came to life in 2018. They are committed to serving delicious food using lots of aromatic herbs, love, and lemon zest!
Together, they bring well-rounded skills and a combined 30+ years of Hospitality Industry experience to the business.
Born and raised in Guelph, Dee graduated from the University of Guelph, earning a Hotel and Food Administration degree. Her strengths are at the back of the house: business management, menu development, costing, and supplier relationships.
Julie grew up in Niagara-on-the-lake, with a background in travel and tourism, excels at the responsibilities at the front of the house: menu design, customer service and networking, point of sale knowledge and day-to-day operations. Her passion for food and entertaining /hosting started at a young age.
A little bit of background:
Both Jules and Dee have worked for several hospitality businesses and decided it was time to take the entrepreneurial leap to do something for themselves. “We started this endeavour for a few different reasons. Not only are we passionate about food and creativity but also wanted to see something exciting and different in our city.”
Together, they worked in a fast-paced restaurant and started to see the trends shifting towards quick service, grab & go, and take-out food. Being inspired by so many different cuisine options, it was challenging for them to come up with a business plan and menu. “After much brainstorming, we thought that grilled sandwiches would allow us to showcase different cooking styles and around the world flavours. Three years later, we stood by our decision – the grilled wrap panini is the perfect vessel to serve a range of homemade fillings and killer sauces.”
What are the goals of your businesses, and how do you hope to achieve them?
“Our mission is to create fresh, high-quality food that can be served fast and efficiently with a focus on friendly customer service.”
Guelph being a small university town with an intimate downtown, Jules and Dee wanted to create a space where people could find a unique and memorable dining experience like no other take-out restaurant. “It has never been about recognition or money. We have always loved sharing our passion for food and making people laugh in a comfortable environment.”
After operating in Downtown Guelph for a little while, the entrepreneurs quickly realized that they laid down roots in an extraordinarily supportive and sustaining city, so ‘Collaboration and community over competition’ became their motto. Within this tight-knit community, they continue to support fellow business owners in keeping the entrepreneurial dream alive.
A personalized touch:
“Pressed for Time Paninis is not your average sandwich shop. It is distinctly different in ambiance and service. We want you to know who is taking your order and cooking your food. We are the face you see and the four hands dedicated to detail and high-quality service. When you enter the shop, we want you to feel like you’re in our home kitchen, surrounded by our favorite cookbooks, plants, and energy. A mom-and-pop shop (or mom-and-mom shop), and you genuinely feel that when you enter our space. We know the majority of our guests’ names and regular orders.
The food is made from scratch with unique, high-quality ingredients, served fast and efficiently. Not to mention, the weekly panini names are sure to bring a smile to your face or maybe make you shake your head, depending on your sense of humour.”
Paninis are usually made with bread, but pressed for time, makes grilled wrap paninis, using a wrap instead of bread. “Our product is one you can eat on the go, and it’s not too messy. We put much thought, time, and effort into creating your next meal. Nothing is pre-packaged, sauces and baked goods are all made in-house, and our meats and beans are slowly braised overnight. We do not like shortcuts! The sandwiches are prepared fresh in front of you, and guests enjoy being able to watch their meal prepared as they wait the way they want. Not to mention our competitive pricing, there are not many 5-star places where you can get a scratch-made meal ready in minutes for $10.”
Using fresh local ingredients is an essential factor for Jules and dee, especially in their weekly specials. Sometimes it’s hard to get fresh local ingredients in this region in Canada all year round, but they partner with a couple of local farmers yearly for certain products like microgreens. Produce like fresh Niagara Fruit, and farmers markets goods are cherished during the season.
Who are your customers primarily?
Pre-pandemic, being located right downtown, the shop catered to consumers working downtown looking for a quick homemade healthy meal. “We continue to serve guests looking for fresh quality food but have seen a shift from business professionals to young couples and families living in and around downtown”.
Downtown Guelph’s outdoor dining district was implemented in 2020 in response to Covid-19, which brought a new energy and foot traffic to the downtown core, which resulted in new faces in the shop. Jules and Dee have utilized social media (Instagram), which has been a primary source of communication with existing and new potential customers. Pressed for time’s high Google ratings and 5-star reviews have contributed to attracting new customers daily for which the ladies are very grateful.
Opening in July 2018, Pressed for Time is about to hit the 3-year mark! Although there are no plans of expansion or a second location, Jules and Dee love their intimacy with their work and customers, “We love being the face behind the brand that this community has grown to love and accept. It would be a struggle to find someone who cares as much as we do”.
However, they are open to change, aren’t afraid of a challenge, and available to other business endeavors and side hustles. “We’ve always dreamed of expanding in atypical ways, perhaps a cookbook or sauce line. We learned that it is tough to plan in this industry, but we are always open to opportunities and new learning experiences”.
How the food industry and business have changed since the pandemic:
As many other businesses, Pressed for Time has experienced a radical shift since the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, 90% of guests were regular customers who would order multiple times a week in the shop or in person. With most people working from home, fewer people are working in their downtown offices, which means fewer sales. “We knew we had to pivot to stay afloat. Our business volume started to fluctuate and shift towards online ordering and curbside versus in person”.
To adapt, they began to offer weekly produce boxes, fresh or frozen take-home meals, selling our retail products in local food subscription boxes, and online ordering in general. The pedestrian-only dining district helped increase foot traffic to the area and, in turn, clientele. One year later, they continue to see many daily newcomers to the shop while still serving creative dishes to the Guelph community.
For Jules and Dee, the business has shifted towards an online presence with a steady increase of 3rd party delivery orders. Their plan for 2021 is to stay consistent and open. Not planning to return to in-person dining anytime soon, Jules and Dee promise to keep dishes fresh and exciting for their guests by continuing to change their menu items seasonally. “We are taking things one day at a time. You certainly can expect to see us sticking around. We’re not hitting the brakes on the dad jokes either, sorry folks!”
A few words of wisdom for young entrepreneurs from these lady bosses:
“Chase after the dream, don’t chase after the money. If you’re getting into this business, we strongly feel it’s for the passion. Owning and operating a restaurant is a ton of hard work, a multifaceted job where one must wear many hats, but that being said, it is also incredibly rewarding.”
Fan favorites you got to try:
The “Club 519” is a classic and our best seller and has been on our menu since day one. The “Whiskey Blues” and the “You’ll Falafel For Us”, are also trendy dishes. It’s difficult to tell from simply reading the menu. A lot of detail and complexity goes into making our food but particularly these two fan favorites. The Whiskey Blues is bold but beautiful with braised balsamic brisket, caramelized onions, danish blue cheese, and our homemade whiskey mustard is the star; a 3-day process, but worth the wait. The falafel base has baked chickpea patties that start with dried chickpeas, tons of herbs, and lemon zest. The house-pickled turnips are a weeklong process, and the lemon garlic tahini, made from scratch, including the tahini in the sauce itself. These three paninis have been a staple one on the menu for over two years.
Be sure to follow Pressed for Time Paninis on social media to stay up to date with what Jules and Dee have in store for spring!
Instagram – @pressedfortimepaninis
Facebook – Pressed for Time Paninis
Website – https://www.pressedfortimepaninis.ca/
Author: Emma Mitro, Lifestyle, Content Writer for The Onside Media, Canada. If you have any stories to share, kindly email: – [email protected]