Can family-owned Rachel’s Mediterranean flip gyro and souvlaki into large progress in Texas? | Business

Brothers Joseph and Jahad “G” Khoury have large plans to show Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill into one thing greater than a Buffalo restaurant chain.

What began about 16 years in the past as a single cafe and deli in Amherst run by the Khoury household has morphed into 14 areas – and so they’re within the midst of a push to increase into new upstate markets and at the same time as far-off as Texas.

Rachel's Mediterranean Grill

Government chef Benjamin Kupka fills bins with some pre-cooked substances at Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill on Transit Highway in Amherst Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo Information)

David Robinson

It’s the fruits of an concept that got here to fruition simply as a development towards more healthy restaurant fare was taking maintain and the fast-and-fresh idea championed by chains resembling Chipotle was catching on with shoppers.

However whereas Rachel’s has caught on with Buffalo Niagara diners, can it’s successful in different markets the place it’s ranging from scratch, with little identify recognition and loads of competitors?

Executives at Rachel’s suppose so. They imagine the chain has constructed a loyal following, together with amongst expatriates – particularly Buffalo space faculty college students – who know the chain and might help it acquire a foothold in locations resembling Syracuse and Rochester.

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And so they imagine the chain’s Lebanese and Greek fare matches properly throughout the present traits towards fast eating choices with a tilt towards wholesome consuming.

Rachel's Mediterranean Grill

A steak greek pita being made at Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill on Transit Highway in Amherst Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo Information)

David Robinson

“Our initial plan was to travel up the I-90 as the demand increased, and now, we’re getting requests from all over as we’re growing,” stated Brandon Guzda, director of operations for Rachel’s. “It’s nowhere near done yet.”

And the Khourys are doing it on their very own. In contrast to some native eating places – such because the Anchor Bar – that have bought franchises to increase elsewhere, Rachel’s is preserving its growth in-house.

The Khoury household opened Rachel’s Café and Deli on Primary Road, near the border of Williamsville and Amherst, in 2006, and it shortly proved common..

The Khoury brothers realized the thought was successful, however they envisioned a extra fast-paced, handy and upscale restaurant than the institution their mother and father have been working. In order that they branched off to open Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill in 2012.

Shortly after opening its first location in Williamsville, Rachel’s was receiving calls from prospects in downtown Buffalo and the suburbs with requests for catering companies, Guzda stated.

The restaurant discovered its area of interest by providing the kind of recent and wholesome meals that the majority fast-food chains weren’t but on the time, stated Adriana Gnagnarelli, director of selling for the restaurant. 

Rachel’s presents an array of vibrant and colourful choices on its lengthy meals merchandise line – making for 70 completely different meal mixtures, to be actual – utilizing a salad, rice bowl or pita wrap as a base, with protein, greens, spreads, cheeses and selfmade sauces and dressings.

That selection helps maintain prospects coming again – and helps its catering enterprise, too, stated Jake Stromberg, the overall supervisor of the Rachel’s retailer in Clarence. 

“People sometimes get a little overwhelmed by all the options, but we always have recommendations ,” stated Stromberg, who’s been with Rachel’s for 3 years.

The customizable menu consists of favorites resembling falafel, beef gyro, hen souvlaki and hen shawarma. Rachel’s additionally makes its personal Greek dressing, dill sauce and tzatziki.

Rachel's Mediterranean Grill

Basic supervisor Jake Stromberg will get prepared for lunch prospects at Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill on Transit Highway in Amherst Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo Information)

David Robinson

As a lot because the restaurant pushes wholesome choices, it additionally presents “guilty pleasures” like Greek fries, Guzda stated.

“We check all the boxes,” he stated. “You don’t have to go there if you’re just eating healthy.”

Rachel’s is now in 11 Buffalo-area areas, with two others in Rochester and even one in Dallas-Fort Value, Texas.

“Our catering department started feeding people who weren’t near that first Mediterranean grill location,” Guzda stated. “They saw the demand in the Southtowns, the Northtowns and downtown, and that sort of led to the growth. Some of these customers were getting caterings almost every day.”

Rachel’s has expanded into areas resembling Buffalo on Elmwood Avenue, Amherst, Getzville, Hamburg and Lancaster and has two areas in Cheektowaga, simply two miles other than each other.

Plans are within the works for 4 extra native shops, together with two in Buffalo, at Delaware and Hertel avenues and East Robinson Highway, one other on Orchard Park Highway in West Seneca and a fourth on Delaware Avenue in Tonawanda. A Niagara Falls restaurant has additionally been on Rachel’s radar. 

And the Khourys are taking Rachel’s on the street, too. The chain opened its first two shops exterior the Buffalo Niagara area throughout 2020 in Rochester, and it has signed leases to open two extra there.

Rachel’s –named after the youngest sister of Joseph and G. – additionally has plans to open its first three shops in Syracuse.

Rachel's Mediterranean Grill

Adriana Gnagnarelli Director of Advertising and marketing, left, and Brandon Guzda COO, proper, of Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill on the location on Transit Highway in Amherst Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo Information)

David Robinson

The restaurant on the campus of the College at Buffalo impressed the opening of Rochester eating places in Pittsford and Henrietta. UB college students returning dwelling fashioned a pure buyer base, already accustomed to the Rachel’s idea, Guzda stated.

Rachel’s hits the street to Texas

However probably the most eye-popping of the growth efforts could have been in March, when Rachel’s opened its doorways in Fort Value, Texas.

The transfer to Texas grew out of the Rachel’s household. Guzda’s sister, Courtney, labored for Rachel’s for six years in Buffalo earlier than shifting to Texas.

Courtney Guzda knew Rachel’s wished to increase, and she or he wished to be a part of it. She moved again to Buffalo to coach for a yr earlier than returning to Texas to open the shop.

However being in Texas poses its personal challenges. In contrast to the push into Rochester, the place the Rachel’s identify had some recognition amongst faculty college students and locals who had eaten there whereas in Buffalo, the Texas retailer is ranging from scratch.

It’s in a metro space of seven million individuals, and valuable few have ever heard of Rachel’s. However Fort Value is large and busy – and Rachel’s officers are relying on that to assist it acquire a foothold in Texas. The Fort Value retailer is in a location the place 130,000 automobiles move by every day, Brandon Guzda stated.

It’s also a take a look at to see how the Rachel’s idea performs in a far-flung market.

“We figured, let’s put one restaurant over there and see what happens, because that could change our whole thought process on demographics and growth moving forward in these big metropolitan cities,” he stated.

Even with all the expansion, the restaurant has confronted its share of challenges, Guzda stated.

Rachel's Mediterranean Grill

An order waits for to be picked up at Rachel’s Mediterranean Grill on Transit Highway in Amherst Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo Information)

David Robinson

They’ve been hit by industry-wide issues exacerbated by the pandemic, resembling staffing and product shortages.

Covid-19 additionally delayed growth plans, as building was pushed again at some areas, Gnagnarelli stated.

Rachel’s would not wish to develop on the expense of their present eating places, Guzda stated.

“Our purpose is to develop with new eating places and into new markets,” he said. “However as soon as now we have, we have a look at our latest areas and the way a lot time we put into them as a lot as we do our oldest areas.”

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