SUMMIT, NJ - In tough economic times, businesses are coming up with innovative ways to attract customers. Recently, the Wine List of Summit decided to partner with Paolo’s Kitchen of New Providence and began serving lunch Monday to Friday.

Ivan Ruiz, owner of the Wine List, said a couple years ago he started thinking about adding some fresh food to his store. Because of his background in the restaurant industry and his connections with many chefs in the area, he began to explore this idea. He elected to stay local with Paolo’s Kitchen and began with frozen meals six months ago, which he said has been a big hit with consumers.

However, people kept asking if they could buy fresh food, so he spoke with Paolo before Thanksgiving and decided to expand their partnership. Paolo would make everything at his store and it would be finished at the Wine List. They officially started serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in mid-December and each day there are four pastas, different types of salads, two soups, sandwiches and desserts.

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The reaction in the community has been excellent, Ruiz said. There are even a few people who have come every day since they started serving lunch. About 150 people have come each week and on Friday Jan. 4, it was their busiest day when they made 52 lunches.

“People really seem to enjoy it,” he said.

Ruiz said the most popular item is the pasta and he attributes that to the machine they have that can make four pastas and four sauces at once.

Additionally, Ruiz designed tables for people to sit at while enjoying lunch using empty wine crates. He said some people have even asked about buying them and in the spring people will be able to eat outside as well.  

“I think if we would only wait for us just to make money on wine alone, we’d be in big trouble,” Ruiz said. “We are always reinventing ourselves in order to meet our customers' wants and needs."

In February, they will start serving lunch on Saturdays and he will be adding Wi-Fi soon. Ruiz also recently signed a deal with Rojos Coffee, where the owner is a master of coffee.

He is extremely excited for 2013 and sees only good things on the horizon.