Industry News | October 31, 2006

O'Naturals Opens First Franchise Unit

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Staying healthy means two things: eating right and exercising more. That advice will be a lot easier to follow come November, when a Wichita health club becomes the inaugural franchise location for the country's first natural and organic fast-casual restaurant.

Portland, Maine-based O'Naturals, founded in 2001 and with three locations in New England, will soon be open to the public 7 days a week at the Genesis Health Club.

Starting next month, the Genesis Rock Road café will serve O'Naturals' menu of flatbread sandwiches and pizzas, soups, tossed salads, Asian noodles, and fresh baked goods. All O'Naturals ingredients are natural, organic, or local. In addition to serving Genesis members, O'Naturals will be open to the public, says co-franchisees Rodney Steven II of Genesis Health Clubs and Wichitan Kelli Fugate, who will serve as manager.

"Kelli and I were impressed with O'Naturals' standards. We looked at a lot of options, and this was the only restaurant concept that offered organic\vegetables and antibiotic- and hormone-free meats that were absolutely delicious. We are looking forward to welcoming the general public as well as our members." Steven noted that whenever possible, the vegetables would be bought locally as well.

O'Naturals is the brainchild of Gary Hirshberg, President and CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm, the world's largest organic yogurt maker. It has been the subject of several subsequent national feature stories and also was spotlighted on the Food Network's Unwrappedseries.

After announcing franchising opportunities earlier this year, company officials at O'Naturals fielded almost 1,000 inquiries from all over the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Why the interest? O'Naturals is benefiting from the growing appetite for fresher, tastier 'fast food,' says Jay Friedlander, O'Naturals chief operating officer.

"We've been approached by individuals, investment groups, supermarket chains, health clubs, restaurant owners and many other types of people from around the country and the world," he says. "We've heard from 48 of 50 states."

"We're thrilled about this opening, since it marks a new chapter in the O'Naturals success story," says Hirshberg. "We welcome the opportunity to show Genesis members, and the Wichita community and beyond that you don't have to sacrifice health and taste for convenience."