At Mulberry & Vine, diners get sustainable proteins and seasonal veggies with a high-five on the side. They take their lunch and dine in highly designed, airy spaces surrounded by woven embellishments and modern light fixtures.
But the Mulberry & Vine that launched in 2013 was a bit different. Co-founder and CEO Michelle Gauthier opened the first location to meet a need she saw for health-focused food. It was a different time though. There wasn't the competition there is now, she said.
The chain has "evolved and changed so much over the years" to keep up with the changing dining landscape and to create a sustainable business, she said.
When Gauthier, and co-founder Justin Schwartz, who oversees culinary operations, opened in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, Mulberry & Vine was a neighborhood restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gauthier lived next door.
"I wasn't thinking, 'What's scalable?’ It was just this is the way I wanted to eat, and it didn't exist," she said. "We didn't open thinking I was going to ever have more than one [restaurant]. And I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm never gonna make any money.’"
In order to build a sustainable, profitable brand, the chain had to lower its price point twice — from about $18 to $12 a dish — and shifted its focus to lunch, which now makes up about 65% of business.
Mulberry & Vine didn't open a second location until nearly three years later. It was another year before it opened the next restaurant, this one in Midtown. Today there are five locations, including a restaurant in Brooklyn that includes a commissary kitchen — "a revenue-generating commissary," as Gauthier calls it. Still, many of the dishes are made in the individual restaurants.
Today customers line up to mix-and-match healthy sides like hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken, charred avocado and roasted sweet potatoes. Simple dishes like roasted broccoli have gained devoted fans, and Gauthier has jumped all in on delivery, which makes up about 40% of the business.
Mulberry & Vine is one of five emerging brands honored by Nation's Restaurant News in this year's class of Hot Concept award winners. The awards program is sponsored by V&V Supremo. Winners will be celebrated during the annual MUFSO conference in October.
Click on the slideshow to get a closer look at this growing brand.
Contact Gloria Dawson at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @GloriaDawson
Kitchen Hero Cookoff Sponsor: Texas Pete
Presenting Sponsors: Shift4 Payables, Shift Pixy, QU and Valyant AI
Norman Award Sponsor: PepsiCo
Sponsor Partners: 505 Southwestern, Appetize Technologies Inc., CardFree, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Compaction Technologies, Daiya, Exponential Interactive, Greenberg Traurig, J.R. Simplot Company, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, OpenTable, PACO Collective, Tundra Restaurant Supply, Upshow, Royal Cup Coffee, V&V Supremo and Ventura Foods
Presented by Nation’s Restaurant News, the 60th Annual MUFSO Conference brings together the restaurant industry’s top leaders to share business insights that are laser focused on moving the restaurant industry forward. MUFSO is scheduled for October 14-16, 2019 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown. For more info visit www.mufso.com. For sponsorship/exhibit information contact [email protected]