Toyota serves up meals at Nashua dealership
"It's an up-and-coming thing now," said Craig Foti, 40, manager of the Upper Deck Café. "Dealerships are throwing cafés in. Acton Toyota has one; there's a Jeep dealership in (Massachusetts) that has one."
Although Toyota previously had a cafeteria for employees, they chose to open it to their customers as part of a growing trend.
Tony Foti is the head cook. Three other employees work in the kitchen, and although the brothers work together as much as they can, there's always at least one of them present, seven days a week.
As Toyota workers filed in and out Saturday, the "Pudgy Brothers," as they call themselves, made fun of the business of food.
"I know everybody," Craig Foti said. "I've built up a nice reputation, me and my brother. We've been in the food business together for 20-plus years."
Craig Foti was working across the street at MacMulkin Chevrolet prior to the job at Toyota. He said Toyota guys would go over there for lunch, and one of them knew there would be an opening.
"They came over, we talked, they gave me an offer, I gave my notice, and here I am," he said, with a smile.
He's glad he made the move - it allowed him to bring his brother in - and he prefers the work environment at Toyota.
A big-screen TV sits above the cafeteria, next to a neon specials menu that lists the soup of the day. On Saturday, it was pot roast dinner for $5.95, including beef, potatoes, carrots, "with a hunk of bread." Bacon sausage veggie was the soup du jour; $2.75 for a cup and $3.25 for a bowl.
Breakfast options include eggs and omelets, hot cakes, burritos, bagels, muffin, even a Boott Mill sandwich - fried egg, cheese, home fries and either bacon, ham,or sausage on a grilled bulkie roll - and nothing costs more than $4.99.
For lunch, there's an array of sandwiches, including BLT, turkey, tuna, roast beef, steak and cheese and burgers, all under $5.99. There's also chicken Parmesan, chicken Caesar wraps and salads. French fries and chicken fingers are available, in addition to haddock, which is offered as a special.
Though there's no employee discount, the food is economically priced at the café. General Manager Rick Lebrie said the offering is more of a courtesy than anything.
"Our goal was just to keep the food reasonably priced - if anything, it's on the lesser expensive side."
Lebrie spent time researching what other dealerships were offering in terms of amenities. "A lot of Toyota dealerships around the country have come up with different (ideas)," he said. "Some even have beauty salons within their dealerships."
Dealerships across the country have been experimenting with amenities for years. Some have nail salons; others have child care centers; many have WiFi access. Lexus of West Palm Beach, Fla., opted for first-class amenities like a 500-gallon aquarium and a bistro-style showroom with marble floors.
Toyota of Nashua kept it simple. "We decided that it would be a good idea to offer something really that would cater to the employee, and then while the customer is waiting for their vehicle they would have the opportunity to come up here and have breakfast, lunch, get coffee, doughnuts, muffins," Lebrie said.
Lebrie usually eats two meals a day at the café, which during the warm months offers customers outdoor seating. "I always critique the food as I go, and I'm kind of a picky eater," he said. "So if I see something that's out of line, I call them out on it right away."
He told Foti that the steak tips from earlier in the week had, "a little trace of a vein."
"I call them out on it," he said. "I mention it, so they try and be a little more careful on it the next time."
Mike Dugas, a mechanic at Toyota for 14 years, often grabs lunch at the café and shoots the breeze with the Foti brothers.
"I've been totally happy with these guys," Dugas said. "I don't think anybody's said any bad words about anything they cook. And it's clean, too. Very clean."
The café's hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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