Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, based in Denver, is poised for growth next year with the launch of a new franchising program and plans to open its first corporate locations outside Colorado.
Founded in 2008, the fast-casual Mediterranean concept has grown to 14 company-owned locations in its home state. Alon Mor, the concept’s president and chief executive, did not disclose where the first franchise locations will open, but said next year the brand is scheduled to be in five or six new markets.
Garbanzo is known for its healthful and customizable menu. Guests build their meals, starting with a pita, a tortilla-like laffa or salad. They add proteins, such as chicken or steak shawarma, falafel or chicken or steak “falarma,” essentially a falafel with meat. Other toppings include hummus, babaganoush, tabbouleh, rice and sauces like tahini or tzatziki.
Mor, who is originally from Israel, says the time is right for a Mediterranean chain concept. He spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about Garbanzo’s growth ahead.
Tell me about Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill. What makes it a good candidate for franchising?
It’s Mediterranean food. We try to fall into three categories: fresh, healthy and authentic. We’re not going to do a Mediterranean quesadilla or something like that.
We’re known for our falafels, our hummus and our shawarma — those are all top sellers. They are unique and authentic. Our falafels are very green, for example, due to the nature of veggies in there. We bring everything from overseas. Our tahini, for example, is made in the Mediterranean region. We could have cut corners and brought in a product from Texas, but that wouldn’t have been authentic.
When we first started, we looked at how Mexican, Asian and other ethnic foods have grown. We’ve all seen Mediterranean becoming more popular because of the health benefits. And if those other cuisines succeeded, there’s no reason why Mediterranean can’t succeed in the same way, especially in fast casual. People look more for quickness, freshness and healthiness of the product.
What do you envision for the brand?
The intent is to go national. But we’re only working with franchisees who are all multi-unit operators. They’ve been operating restaurants for many years. We’re not looking for people who want to open onesies and twosies. We’re looking for people that get it.
We’re looking more at specific regions, as opposed to going out in concentric circles.
How big are Garbanzo’s units?
They average is around 2,300 to 2,400 square feet with 75 to 80 seats. The average check is about $8.50.