- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2007

Drew Pencek is hoping that people will be walking to their Washington offices this fall eating waffles with their hands. But it’s not quite the syrupy-buttery mess you’re thinking.

These are traditional Belgian waffles made with a thick dough instead of batter, injected with optional chocolate or fruit and coated with caramelized sugar. You don’t need a knife and fork to eat these waffles.

Mr. Pencek plans to open a franchise of Bonte Wafflerie & Cafe, a company that was founded in 2003 in Philadelphia.

Mr. Pencek is scouting downtown locations with a lot of foot traffic. He plans to open three Bonte shops in the D.C. area.

He is hoping to take a bite out of a popular coffee shop’s business.

“I personally think people are getting sick of Starbucks — maybe it’s a backlash or something,” he said, adding that Bonte has a different focus on European decor and fresh products. “I think people are looking for an alternative.”

The shops would be open all day, so Bonte offers sandwiches, soups and salads in addition to waffles, pastries and coffee. Waffles will cost about $3.50 each.

Mr. Pencek is optimistic that his waffles will catch on here.

“It’s the equivalent of a pretzel in Belgium,” he said. “There are waffle stands all over the country there. Commuters can grab it and eat it on the go.”

He plans to open the first store in the fall.

Hotels, union start talks

Contract negotiations began late last week between the city’s unionized hotels and Local 25 of UNITE-HERE, which represents hotel and restaurant employees and textile manufacturers. The current contract expires Sept. 15.

Employees of many of the city’s largest hotels, including the Marriott Wardman Park, Washington Hilton, Renaissance Mayflower Hotel and L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, are unionized.

“The hotels are optimistic that the hotels and union can reach an agreement on all of the issues,” said Emily Durso, president of the Hotel Association of Washington D.C.

Talks are expected to focus on wages and benefits.

In other news…

Red Hot & Blue Restaurants, the Arlington barbecue chain that was bought by Dancing Pigs LLC investment group in December, plans to move its headquarters to Winston-Salem, N.C., this fall.

John Walker, principal owner of Dancing Pigs, hinted last year that the company would move its headquarters to embrace a more Southern image.

“At the risk of being politically incorrect, being headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, isn’t necessarily 100 percent Southern,” he said at the time.

The District’s annual August sales tax holiday began Saturday and will run through Sunday. The holiday, which coincides with back-to-school shopping, eliminates the city’s 5.75 percent sales tax from all clothing, accessories, shoes, jewelry and school supplies that cost less than $100.

The results are in from California Tortilla’s rock, paper, scissors promotion in June, which gave customers $1 off any entree if they could beat the cashier at the game.

California Tortilla, which is based in Rockville, kept track of the score and found that customers beat the cashiers 62 percent of the time.

Contact Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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