The Garden Kettle is a Fresh Concept in Restaurants

BOARDMAN – Everything about The Garden Kettle screams “fresh and healthy.”

But the food at the new restaurant can also be made as hearty as the customer desires, and it’s served with an emphasis on speed and convenience.

The eatery at 8049 Market St., across from King Collision, is a prototype that works with, and not against, current customer preferences and restaurant trends and circumstances.

It is owned and operated by Joe and Stacey Rzonsa, who also own The Blue Wolf Tavern, which is in its 22nd year, and Blue Wolf Events and Catering.

The married couple put their decades of restaurant knowledge into the concept. As for the menu – that was developed with a bit of personal experience.

“My wife and I never seemed to fully agree on where to dine with the family,” Rzonsa said. “She would always look for something fresh and healthy and lighter, and I am a meat and potatoes guy.”

With an extensive menu that ranges from homemade soups and salads to the Roasted Beast sandwich, The Garden Kettle can please folks on both ends of the spectrum.

All dressings and spreads are served in containers on the side of the dish, so customers can put on as much or as little as they want. 

“You determine your own calorie count,” Rzonsa said. “And we capture both markets.”

After getting the flagship store on its feet, the Rzonsas intend to open several more. The couple is already looking at locations in Columbiana and plan to open a third and fourth location in Austintown and somewhere in Trumbull County.

The Garden Kettle meets modern preferences by fast lunch service, offers delivery and dine-in options and stays open late enough to grab dinner to take home. Food can be ordered and paid for online, or by phone, and then picked up at the drive-thru window with no human contact.

The menu ranges from light to indulgent. There are eight soups made fresh daily, a full slate of sandwiches and wraps, bowls that are loaded with everything from fresh vegetables to meats and cheeses and eight specialty salads.

The Garden Kettle operates with a small staff, which became a necessity in the past couple of years because of the labor shortage.

 But the Rzonsas started developing the idea in 2016. Joe explains its evolution from concept to reality.

“We were proud of our ability to create fresh menu items from scratch that our customers had grown to love [at The Blue Wolf],” he said. “And we thought what was lacking in this area was doing that on a smaller scale that is more efficient and cost-effective.”

Although the Rzonsas incorporated The Garden Kettle in 2016, business issues forced them to delay moving forward.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, it forever changed the restaurant industry. Customer preference for takeout food with no human interaction became stronger, and the pool of workers became smaller. The Rzonsas designed The Garden Kettle business model with both of those new realities in mind.

“It was a blessing in disguise that we didn’t open in 2016,” Rzonsa said. “I’m not sure [the original business model] would even be viable today. It was labor heavy.”

The Garden Kettle has a staff of 10, of which six work in the kitchen. Food is prepped the evening before, and soups, dressings, spreads and sauces are made each morning in-house.

Customers get their orders quickly but without compromising on service. Rzonsa says the preparation time after the customer places an order ranges from as little as 45 seconds for soups and salads to seven minutes for some of the sandwiches.

The Garden Kettle has partnered with Grubhub, Uber Eats and Door Dash for delivery.

Those who pick up their food from the drive-thru window need never get out of their car. By paying in advance on the website, they can eliminate interaction for payment when picking up.

The Garden Kettle is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Those hours make it possible for customers to pick up dinner to take home after their work day ends, either by ordering in advance or from the grab-and-go case.

The restaurant is also open Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed Sundays.

The Garden Kettle is located on the site of a former Eat’n Park restaurant that had sat vacant for eight years. It takes up about two-thirds of the original restaurant footprint, or 4,000 square feet.

The Rzonsas gave the entire space, including the 1,200-square-foot kitchen, a complete makeover.

The owners looked at about a dozen sites before deciding on the location. 

“This one was the most attractive,” Rzonsa said. “It has proximity to Boardman, Canfield, Poland and Youngstown, and it’s near [several] car dealerships, who give us great business, plus Boardman schools and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and [The Surgical Hospital at] Southwoods. It’s near a lot of people who get a lunch break every day.”

Carl Hileman has been tapped as chef of The Garden Kettle. He is a 12-year employee of The Blue Wolf Tavern and ran the Rzonsa’s catering operation for the past decade.

Pictured at top: Joe and Stacey Rzonsa display some menu items inside their new restaurant, The Garden Kettle.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.