Joe Guditus serving a customer favorite, teriyaki salmon.

Joe Guditus serving a customer favorite, teriyaki salmon.

Melville, NY  (Restaurant News Release)  Joe Guditus has gone from line cook to the operator of four busy cafés in just a few years.

It wasn’t long ago that Guditus, who now runs the Cup O Joe Cafés in four class-A Melville office buildings owned/managed by T. Weiss Realty Corp., was toiling in restaurant kitchens in New York City and Long Island. He received his culinary education at the Branford Hall Academy, a career school, in Springfield, Mass., after five years of pursuing a business degree following graduation from Walt Whitman High School.

The 34-year-old Huntington native and Huntington village resident has for the past 10 years worked for two different operators that ran the café-style restaurants in the developer’s four office buildings in Melville. Last year, when the previous café operator and T. Weiss Realty mutually agreed to end their five-year arrangement, Guditus wanted to step in. “I told the owners I wanted to continue,” he said.

It wasn’t long before he and T. Weiss Realty came to terms.  “I feel like a member of the T. Weiss family,” he said.

It is often tough for a landlord to find a café operator that is both cost effective and provides top notch service.  Guditus, who began working in T. Weiss Realty’s buildings 10 years ago, has worked for two different operators.

Ted Weiss, chief executive of T. Weiss Realty, said, “A quality food service is important for the employees of the firms that lease our office space. It gives them the ability to enjoy breakfast or lunch while lounging in our Wi-Fi ready atriums and not battling Route 110 traffic.”

Operators, such as Guditus, serve a captive audience, because the people are already there.  The alternative for workers is brown bagging, dealing with lunch-hour traffic on busy Route 110, or waiting for an on-line food delivery.

Cup O Joe Café is a breakfast and lunch concept whose hours of operation align with when people are in their office. Monday through Friday, Guditus’ cafés offer hot breakfast fare, such as omelets, quesadillas and baked goods, starting at 7:00 a.m. The café also provides paninis, sandwiches, wraps, hamburgers, soups, hot-food specials and grab-and-go salads from 11:30 a.m. to closing at 3:00 p.m.

The cafés are located in the atria of 105 Maxess Rd., 532 Broadhollow Rd., 324 S. Service Rd. and 330 S. Service Rd in Melville, NY. The restaurants are open to the public.

Prices at the cafés, Guditus said, are comparable to nearby gourmet delis, which he frequently surveys.

The cafés, which have large-screen TVs, serve as many as 400 meals daily to employees of businesses in the T. Weiss Realty buildings and surrounding buildings. In addition to his menu of specialty sandwiches, Guditus each day prepares two varying hot entrées with two side dishes for those want hot plates, but don’t want to leave the building.

Guditus’ offerings are sometimes old family recipes, and other times are new twists on old ideas. “It’s modernized food,’ he explains. “I have ideas and throw them out.” Even so, at least one entree, teriyaki salmon, is so popular, that he may offer it twice a week. “I put it out and it’s gone in a second.”

Daily preparations, he said, are “pretty much what I feel like.” That often means food that fits the weather outside, say, comfort food for rainy days and light dishes when it’s warmer.

Guditus begins his day at 5:00 a.m., when he arrives at the 324 S. Service Rd. café to put the day’s soup on the stove. Then, he heads over to Restaurant Depot in Farmingdale to pick up more fresh ingredients for the day’s entrees. “I want the best quality ingredients I can get,” he said. Guditus personally shops for ingredients rather than relying on a food-service supplier that delivers.

His biggest challenge, Guditus said, is keeping all the places the same. “I wish I could clone myself.” The alternative is reliance on his staff. “I have very good help,” he said of his seven workers. “I have good employees that I can trust.”

Alan J. Wax