Quaker Steak debuts smaller prototype

'Mini-Lube' also features a streamlined menu

Quaker Steak & Lube has opened its first smaller-scale restaurant, intended as a secondary location in markets where it already has a presence and that might not support additional full-size units of the chain.

The new restaurant in Madison, Wis., is 5,500 square feet and has 198 seats, as opposed to typical Quaker Steak & Lube units, which seat 325 to 350 people and range in size between 7,400 square feet and 8,700 square feet, the motor-sports-themed chain said.

Like other locations of “the Lube” — as the chain likes to be called — the smaller version is a full-service restaurant with a full bar, and is decorated with various sports paraphernalia. But its menu is in tri-fold style rather than book-style, features 46 items instead of 61, and has been reworked to target the younger, more health-conscious audience the company said it expects its University of Wisconsin customers to be.

That includes an expanded flatbread section and additional vegetarian items such as vegetable quesadillas and nachos and a “California Veggie Ranch” flatbread topped with ranch dressing, broccoli, roasted red peppers, red onion and Swiss and Parmesan cheeses. The vegetarian items are marked with a stop light with the green light lit and called “Go Meatless” selections.

“Low-Rider” options, or smaller portions, are offered for some salads and appetizers.

A new “Factory Fries” section also has been added to the menu. Taking a cue from the Lube’s already successful “Magna Fries,” which are French fries covered with Cheddar-Jack cheese and bacon, and using the chain’s many sauces for its wings, new options include Baja Fries in chicken enchilada sauce with cheese, scallion, tomato, jalapeño and sour cream; Thai fries with spicy “Thai R’ Cracker” sauce, provolone and scallions; and Buffalo Red Hot Fries, which are coated in hot sauce and served with blue cheese dip.

The steak section has been eliminated, and some portion sizes also have been shrunk, the chain said. Wing combos have six wings instead of eight wings. Hamburgers are served with one-third-pound patties instead of half-pound ones, but with the option to “make it a duelly,” or add another third-pound patty, for an additional $1.40.

Among the paraphernalia at the new Madison unit are a Volkswagen Beetle painted the bright red of the University of Wisconsin hanging upside-down in the lobby, a dune Buggy and race car designed, built, raced and donated by UW, and hockey, basketball and football jerseys all from the school.

A second “Mini-Lube” is slated to open in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, Ohio, later this year, the chain said.

Sharon, Pa.-based Quaker Steak & Lube operates 38 units in 12 states, plus one in Toronto, Ontario.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]