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24-02_2778-12B_ANI_CAV_MENU_STEAK_BOWL_final.jpeg CAVA
Steak is the newest protein taking over fast-casual restaurants like CAVA and Sweetgreen.

CAVA becomes the latest fast-casual restaurant to introduce steak as a protein

The premium offering debuted on the Washington D.C.-based chain’s menu June 3

Washington D.C.-based fast-casual chain CAVA announced on Monday that its newest protein option — steak ­ — is officially available on menus nationwide. The brand’s CEO Brett Schulman confirmed the rollout on the company’s Q1 earnings call last week.

“Our Grilled Steak was two years in the making, and, like everything on our menu, is rooted in our Mediterranean heritage and made with unique flavors and the highest-quality ingredients,” said Ted Xenohristos, CAVA co-founder and chief concept officer, in a release. “We wanted to create something people can’t get anywhere else, that’s elevated, but also accessible to everyone.”

The Grilled Steak is seasoned with sun-dried tomato powder and Aleppo pepper, according to the release. The steak will be grilled at each location daily.

It’s currently featured in two new chef-curated menu items at CAVA: The Steak Mezze Salad made with Grilled Steak, crumbled feta, fire-roasted corn, tzatziki, red-pepper hummus, pickled onions, arugula, baby spinach, garlic dressing, and Greek vinaigrette; and the Steak + Feta Pita made with Grilled Steak, Crazy Feta, feta, red-pepper hummus, pickles, garlic dressing, Greek vinaigrette, and romaine.

The Steak + Feat Pita is the brand’s take on a steak and cheese sandwich.

Grilled Steak was in test in the Boston and Dallas markets for several months before the announcement last week that it would move to a nationwide rollout.

“With Grilled Steak, our exceptional culinary team has fulfilled guests’ desire for a beef option on the menu, done the Mediterranean way,” Schulman said in a statement. “We saw a great response to Grilled Steak in our market tests and expect our unique take on this beloved protein gives consumers yet another reason to visit CAVA and come back more often.”

Sweetgreen’s steak menu test was also conducted in Boston. That steak is grass-finished tri-tip sirloin steak finished with a blend of slow-roasted caramelized garlic and onions.

The premium protein options, both chains have said, are meant to increase the dinner occasion, presumably to compete with casual-dining chains as consumers trade down.

CAVA’s dinner sales are approximately 46% of its mix, the chain said in an earnings call last week.

Sweetgreen said on its earnings call earlier in May that during its test, steak was part of one in every five orders at dinnertime.

Consumers have broadly begun to take their business away from casual dining due to price hikes, a sentiment echoed by Q1 earnings in which almost every casual-dining chain saw sales and traffic turn negative.

In contrast, most fast-casual chains saw increases in traffic and sales. CAVA experienced 2.3% same-store sales growth for the quarter.

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