Many restaurants have a love story behind them. But Avocaderia’s romance is an unusual one.
Founder Francesco Brachetti fell in love with avocados when he was living and working in Mexico City. He had never eaten one in his native Italy, where they are not part of the pantry. He was taken with the avocado’s creamy texture and admired its health benefits. He was so enamored with the fruit that he convinced a friend, Alessandro Biggi—who had immigrated to Seattle and was disenchanted with the lunch options available—that they should open an avocado bar.
“I believed we could fill the gap with healthy fast food people our age are interested in. Avocados have the good kind of fat, and they fill you up,” says Brachetti, the 29-year-old entrepreneur who exudes a kind of casual charm reflected in the “Hi, I’m Francesco” printed on his business card.
He enlisted the help of his chef cousin, Alberto Gramini, to develop a menu that would go beyond the trend unleashed by wildly popular avocado toast. When it came to location, the business partners picked the epicenter of emerging trends: Brooklyn.
“If you can prove your concept here, you can do it anywhere,” he says, acknowledging that he hopes Avocaderia’s first location, which he believes is the world’s first avocado-only café, will be the incubator for a fast-casual chain.
The team settled on a 450-square-foot space in the food hall of Industry City, a colossal development in the far reaches of Brooklyn that encompasses 19 former warehouse buildings on 35 waterfront acres. The food hall is housed in Building 2 of the vast complex, which welcomes a mix of big-box stores, tech start-ups, work spaces, art galleries, and small retail.
Some 7,000 people already work on this futuristic campus and supply a steady stream of lunchtime business. Avocaderia is feeding about 250 people a day, which requires at least 25 cases of avocados a week.
The cheerful, colorful space is decorated with Moroccan tiles. The founders didn’t want to give the impression that Avocaderia is a Mexican restaurant.
“We want to be international,” Brachetti says. Guacamole is the only Mexican thing on the menu, and even that is served with baked pita chips. The restaurant offers salads, smoothies, and a best-selling “Avoburger” whose “bun” is a whole avocado, while the fillings are salmon, herb yogurt, watermelon radish, and arugula. The other best seller is a Mediterranean sourdough toast with tapenade, avo mash, cherry and sundried tomatoes, feta, and pistachio dukkah. All menu items, with the exception of the burger, are made with half an avocado. The average price of a sandwich is $10.
All of Avocaderia’s organic pebbly-skinned Hass avocados are sourced from a free-trade cooperative in the Mexican state of Michoacán, which is the avocado capital of the world. The founders schooled themselves in the cycles of ripeness, which can be frustrating for avocado lovers.
“You can’t ripen one in two hours,” Brachetti says, but he adds that you can speed up the ripening process by wrapping the avocados in newspaper with a banana, and you can slow it down by putting them in the fridge. “The ideal temperature to ripen is 65–68 degrees Fahrenheit.”
He recalls that when buying an avocado in a market in Mexico, the vendor will ask whether you want to use it right away in guacamole, have it firm for slicing, or wait a few days for it to ripen—a service not performed in U.S. supermarkets.
Avocaderia opened on April 10 with two employees. In short order, the restaurant added another 10 workers, most of whom have some restaurant experience. It ran out of avocados on the first day. On Memorial Day weekend, 1,000 hungry customers swarmed the restaurant. A video went viral and increased business by 80 percent.
But Brachetti, who has a solid footing in finance, feels things are progressing smoothly now—so much so that the team is already scouting a location in Manhattan.