Fast-casual chain Tender Greens may still be relatively small, with just 21 units in California, but its influence on the industry far outstrips its size.
Fine-dining alumni Erik Oberholtzer, Matt Lyman and David Dressler founded the Los Angeles-based chain in 2006, and have since built it into one of the most-watched young chains on the West Coast — and a poster child for the white-hot healthful fast-casual niche.
Customers have been drawn to the chain’s “slow food done fast” — local, sustainable, chef-inspired menu items at affordable prices in a casual setting.
Investors have taken note as well. The company recently accepted what the fast-casual operator has called significant minority investments from Union Square Hospitality Group and equity investment firm Alliance Consumer Growth.
The Union Square Hospitality Group investment came with high praise from one of the industry’s top entrepreneurs, Danny Meyer, founder of the fast-growing Shake Shack chain and No. 1 on this year’s Power List.
“Every now and then, I’ll visit a restaurant and love the idea — the food, the people, the culture — so much that I wish I’d thought of it myself,” said Meyer, Union Square Hospitality Group’s CEO. “That’s exactly what happened with Tender Greens.”
Tender Greens’ founders say they plan to use the funding to grow beyond the chain’s native California. They said last year they aimed to reach 30 locations by the end of 2016, with plans to move outside California for the first time in early 2017.
As it grows, Tender Greens is tapping into the kind of outside-of-the-box thinking that defines some of the hottest young restaurant chains today.
In addition to using seasonal ingredients and local sourcing practices, the chain is also working with several farms to develop innovative practices to supply its restaurants with what one might call “hyper local” produce, including greens grown on site in hydroponic towers.