The menu is a work in progress and is still evolving. A few different iterations have rolled out so far. Along with taking the best items from each concept, the Daphne’s team is devoting resources to developing products that will stay on the menu long-term rather than just focusing on LTOs, Eldredge says. With health-conscious customers in mind, all menu items are under 700 calories. Guests can still customize dishes without exceeding that count. The menu also caters to guests with low-fat, low-carb, high-protein diets as well as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free customers.
Elite’s goal is to transform Daphne’s from your dad’s pita shop into an authentic, modern Mediterranean restaurant.
“We're focusing on recipes from all over the Middle East—everything from Armenian to Lebanese to Greek—to give an actual Mediterranean take on casual dining compared to just being a Greek restaurant,” Eldredge says. “We want to offer more diversity to expand across other Mediterranean cultures.”
Daphne’s menu has Mediterranean flavor at its core, but that hasn’t stopped the development to take on some aspects of American dishes. To help attract new customers, the menu is “kind of an immersion of Mediterranean food into American cuisine,” Eldredge says.
“One example of that is a dish called Fire Feta Fries with spicy sauce with feta cheese in it,” he says. “You get that great Mediterranean feature on top of having a nice, crispy, salty, savory fry. So it's kind of like an infusion. It’s not necessarily traditionally a Mediterranean dish, it’s kind of a Mediterranean spin on American food.”
Transitioning from a regional to national brand
After the acquisition of Noon, Daphne’s gained locations in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Boston. By the end of May, most units were rebranded under the Daphne’s banner.
Instead of rapidly expanding the concept, Elite is taking the time to see what makes sense financially for franchisees. Low-performing locations are closing or being relocated to optimize the company’s footprint.
“We’re relocating stores, kind of not relocating them in terms of shutting one down and moving across town,” Eldredge says. “It's more like shutting down a C-plus location and reopening across the street in an A-plus location.”
After the conversion of the Noon locations completes later this year, Daphne’s footprint will consist of roughly 32 locations. Once Elite feels comfortable owning the markets Daphne’s is in, it will start thinking about future growth. “As we build momentum and inertia and we do plan to open and grow by 10–20 percent each year,” Eldredge says.
Older stores are being remodeled, but Elite hasn’t exactly nailed down the correct aesthetic to make the restaurant have a real Mediterranean ambiance.
However, guests won’t find the typical decor of a Greek restaurant, Eldrege says.
“It will have modern decor in a very clean concept,” he says. “We want to make it more of a celebration of the food and spices.”
In the evolving fast-casual segment, diners are increasingly focused on the overall experience and want a place to linger and enjoy themselves. Eldrege says they are designing the stores for that kind of experience.