Have you ever wanted to go behind the scenes with the people who make up in Port Jefferson, or had dreams of opening a restaurant just like the hip breakfast spot? According to Toast’s owner Terry Scarlatos, you’ll have the chance to do both very soon.
On one hand, Toast will be the center of a new reality series when a pilot starts filming sometime in the beginning of February, an opportunity that will coincide with the eatery's plan to begin franchising the quirky coffee shop with a few investors who are customers and big fans.
And funny enough, it was the credit crunch that brought Toast its big break.
Scarlatos, who lives in Poquott, said that when he went on the “money hunt” to expand the restaurant last year he found banks weren’t lending. Ultimately, he funded the expansion on his own but in the process one potential investor put the idea of franchising into his mind. A customer who happened to be a partner in a television production company asked Scarlatos if he’d be interested in documenting the process of franchising for a reality show.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Scarlatos said. “And it’s in my nature to kind of look for the next thing.”
April will mark 10 years since Toast opened in the village, uniquely paring a breakfast menu with a gallery of emerging artists.
“What makes Toast great is the opposite of a franchise,” said Scarlatos.
That may be counterintuitive, but it’s exactly what he thinks will make it work. Rather than taking the carbon copy idea of franchising he said he’d like to blaze a new trail and “take a restaurant and ‘Toastify’ it.”
Scarlatos is encouraged by the fact that over the years people have told him that it would be great if Toast Coffeehouse opened in other towns on Long Island.
The most important thing is that the franchise stays true to the quality of the menu and energy of the original, including aspects like the mismatched cups and the rotating art shows. He admits that there is some leeway for making it work. Except, of course, for the coffee.
“It’s definitely not easy,” he said. “Over the years you spend time defining what you are.”
The art gallery and breakfast atmosphere is the heart of community for Scarlatos. This mixture attracts interesting personalities to Toast and that’s why he’s betting the reality show will be picked up after the production company shops the pilot around to television studios.
“Toast Coffeehouse Confidential” will look at the cast of people who run the restaurant on a daily basis, from the artist hanging his work for the first time to the career waitress. Scarlatos thinks it’ll be easy since “everybody is a natural character” at Toast.
As the owner, Scarlatos said his role portrays running a business on two levels, the big picture and the day-to-day, capturing what it takes to prepare and execute a restaurant.
“The show will focus on the process,” he said.
Filming may disrupt the flow of the business a little but Scarlatos said that the producers have “lots of great technology and experience” so that they remain mostly in the background.
“They refer to themselves as ninjas,” he said.
The village is on board, according to Scarlatos, saying he’s gotten their blessing to shoot the pilot.
“We’re hoping to film in lots of great spots and capture a lot of the surrounding atmosphere,” he said. “It’ll be great for Port Jefferson.”
Mayor Margot Garant said that the production company will need a permit to film on the streets of the village but said that “the background and atmosphere at Toast is a superb reflection of Port Jefferson's energy, culture and pace.”
“I’m thrilled for Terry,” Garant said. “Toast is one of the many great assets of Port Jefferson. And his French Toast rocks.”
Where this will all lead in the coming months, Scarlatos is still not sure.
“It’s part of our journey now. I have no expectations,” he said. “That’s how I move through the world.”