From the December 2000 issue of Entrepreneur

With the average lunch "hour" only 29 minutes long, fast food is often not fast enough. But Mark Wiser, president of Food Bucket Inc., has figured out how to feed the masses on a tight schedule. His Chicago-based company touts itself as the "ultra-convenient, no-brainer deli." With carryout and delivery service in addition to dine-in, Wiser says virtually everyone gets their food delivered within 15 minutes of ordering; walk-in customers get fed even faster.

"We provide what we think-and we've measured it-is the fastest carryout line in town," Wiser says. "We have people who literally rollerblade in."

Wiser, 37, began Food Bucket after a dozen years' experience in the restaurant industry. With a business model designed to serve people who eat at their desks, Wiser opened his first store in July 1998 to test his concept. The first store did so well, a second followed eight months later. Both stores, in Chicago's Loop area, offer almost no seating, which helps Wiser keep start-up costs at about $40,000. In July, he opened a third store in Chicago's upscale Gold Coast area with a scant 620 square feet and 20 seats. With a simple menu of soups, salads and sandwiches, it's been relatively easy to structure the Food Bucket business, Wiser says.

"Our business model is not to have million-dollar stores, because we don't need to," he says. "We expect the average Food Bucket to be profitable and expandable at $200,000 per year in sales."


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