Onward and Upward

For centuries, friends and family have gathered to break bread, share a bottle of wine, and chat about life. This tradition rings especially true at Postino Winecafe — a restaurant that opened in a vacant 1940s brick post office in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix in 2001 — where bread takes the less conventional form of bruschetta with mouthwatering topping combinations and paninis stuffed with unexpected ingredients. Craig DeMarco and Lauren Bailey, owners of parent company Upward Projects — which also founded such Phoenix favorites as Windsor, Churn, Federal Pizza, and Joyride TacoHouse — aim to create beautiful spaces for people to feel at home in.

“Since the very beginning, our concepts have been rooted in the neighborhoods they’re in,” explains Marisa Bigler, senior graphic designer at Upward Projects. “Although we’ve always been passionate about adaptive-reuse projects, not all of our restaurants are in old buildings. When it comes to design, we like to pay homage to the history of the building, or the time period it was built in, the neighborhood, and the people that made the community what it was.” For instance, Bailey recently visited Houston, where Postino Montrose opened, to install an art piece made from memorabilia of the community’s history — it’s housed in what was the first gay bar in Houston, and the wall collage will pay a creative and loving tribute to its LGBTQ roots.

DINING IS IN THE DETAILS
Upward Projects knows that eating out is about more than a few tasty bites of food and a convenient location — it’s about creating an experience that your patrons crave over and over again. As they say, the devil is in the details. “It’s the server sharing some little-known history about the building, the music that makes you want to Shazam it, or the unique beer list,” says Bigler. “How menu hardware feels on the table, hidden messages on a gum chit, the weight of a business card, which upholstery to use in the Arizona sun or Texas humidity, or whether a menu font is large enough to read in low light.” And, of course, it’s also about the people. “The people we choose to bring on to our team are people who share our values and strive to make people feel good — whether that’s in the restaurants or in our headquarters,” says Bigler. “It would be harder onward and upward to be creative if we didn’t enjoy being around each other all day!” The same attention to detail goes into the brand’s digital marketing, which often goes through a few iterations of ideas and designs before reaching that final “ah-ha” moment. “Our goal is to get our guests excited to open our emails or share an animated GIF we created for Instagram,” reveals Bigler. “We want to continue to be an unexpected and happy surprise. We think about these details on the daily, and that contributes to our success.”

A SOLUTION TO GROWING PAINS
With seven locations in Arizona (including an upcoming Tucson restaurant), two more in Houston and three in Denver, Postino is expanding into new markets at a rapid pace — as such, Upward Projects was faced with the reality that their previous printer couldn’t handle the workload. “We will be at 20-plus locations in the next few years, so we needed a provider that offers a more advanced ordering platform, as well as fulfillment and shipping,” says Bigler. “We hired Prisma a year ago, and it’s great to have a solutions partner who can help guide us to where we need to be and plan for that growth.” The company uses Prisma’s dokshop portal for print-on-demand items such as menus, store collateral, signage, and also for third party items that they keep in inventory for fulfillment, such as custom menu hardware and screen-printed stickers. There are also sections for “sign holders” and “event décor,” where the restaurants can follow links to pre-selected items, which makes it easy for them to stay on-brand. “Dokshop has been a game-changer for the stores and our home office,” says Bigler. “It encourages department heads to be able to plan and budget their print collateral. The stores can log on and order business cards from variable templates, which is sent to Marketing to proof before print. This puts the responsibility on the stores instead of our department becoming a bottleneck for their initiatives. It’s easy for our team to log in and quickly see all the materials available, select quantities, and determine budget.”

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