“We don’t talk to the customer. We just get their sandwich,” says Alexandra Zaki. She and husband, Sheref, own the Which Wich franchise that just opened beneath the dark overhang of 301 E. Liberty, that pyramidal mass on the northeast corner of Fifth and Liberty. Several restaurants have tried and failed in the spot. Maybe not talking to customers will be the ticket. “I ate at Chipotle the other day, and customers were always saying, ‘no, wait a minute,'” and stopping the traffic as they rethought their choices, Zaki says.
At Which Wich you take as long as you want to make your choices, but you do it by checking off boxes on a brown paper bag in which your wich will eventually be delivered to you. When you’re ready, hand your bag with the ticked-off choices to a cashier, who quickly sets the process into irrevocable motion.
Though the staff isn’t primed to be chatty, they seem pretty friendly–we didn’t get the impression that if we discovered we’d made a terrible mistake we would get in trouble for yelling “Wait! I forgot the tomato!” A host explains the system as you walk through the door–there are lots of kinds of bags, and you have to select the right one. Zaki says she’s going to keep the host on staff. Some Which Wich franchises eliminate the job as soon as customers seem to be getting the idea.
This is the Zakis’ first restaurant, but the couple, who both have business degrees–he from U-M, she at DePaul in Chicago–own iBrand Threads, an apparel-printing company with print shops in Troy and Chicago.
Which Wich, 301 E. Liberty, 929-2113. Mon.-Wed. 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. whichwich.com