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Queue Café: Friendly, Independent, and Very Profitable
Every chain probably wishes they could clone the Weitlaufs. The independent operators have taken a small corner of a major downtown building and turned it into a gold mine.
In the kitchen at Queue Cafe in Louisville.
A speedy kitchen crew contributes to timely orders. Photo by Fred Minnick

It’s noon, and Louisville’s downtown streets are filled with white-collared workers looking for lunch. Many of them walk into the LG&E Building on 2nd and Market Street. But they’re not here to pay utility bills. They’re hungry.

The professionals stand in a long line that starts at the building’s security guard desk. For the person in the back, about 40 people stand in between him and Queue Café, a quaint fast-casual restaurant nestled in the lower level corner. Unless the back-of-the-line patrons have 20 / 20 vision, they probably can’t see Queue Café’s menu board, but chances are they can smell fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies or made-to-order grilled chicken sandwiches, Portobello Provolone, or BLTs. It won’t be long until they can see the dessert tray up close; the line moves quicker than a Chick-fil-A drive-thru, with each order averaging three to five minutes.

And when Queue Café’s customers step up to the electronic cash register, they are greeted by first names and asked about their daughter’s soccer team, the recent honeymoon, or if mom is out of the hospital. After the order is taken, most of them stand off to the side and wait for their white paper sack filled with fresh-made goodies to be delivered by a young woman in the all-black Queue Café uniform. Like the owner behind the register, the young woman infectiously smiles from ear to ear as she effortlessly delivers 10 bags in less than 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the fast-working team of four dices tomatoes and onions on stainless steel countertops, tosses salad, and grills beef patties and chicken. While the front of the house knows the customer names, the back has special nicknames for customers like “Extra Lettuce, Extra Tomato.” That system seems to be working.

On this day, nobody complains about the wrong order or demands a refund because their Chocolate Mousse Mocha is too hot or the Feta Veggie has too much Boursin spread.

On an average day, the Queue Café serves 400 to 600 happy customers while nearby delis and sub shops struggle to get 300. The amazing thing is this independent is only 18 months old and run by two rookie restaurant owners—Kim and Jea Weitlauf.

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