“We’re still only 50 restaurants. We’re proud of our size, but it’s also not large. So we have plenty of opportunities,” Bartlett says. “But there are a long list of companies that grow too fast too soon and we want to make sure that we’re not one of those. We want to be prudent with what we do. You don’t want to get too far ahead of your skis when it comes to growth.”
Luna Grill was one of the first brands to push into the Mediterranean fast casual space. The chain’s team has been sourcing responsibly; serving up a fresh menu of kabobs, gyro meats, salads, hummus varieties, and innovative sides like Feta Fries. And advocating for clean eating for more than a decade now. Pinnella says that these sourcing, cooking, and menu processes and operations are already nailed down, and aren’t what need attention moving forward.
Instead, his first order of business for the brand is promoting these clean systems and values outwardly, or building a guest-facing culture for the concept—a process that brings the skills he developed with Taco Bell into play.
“After my years with Taco Bell and Yum!, I realized that, at the end of the day, building great brands is done through the power of culture, recognition, and a brand’s purpose or story,” he says. “I saw Luna Grill as a great food choice for me and my family, but not as a brand choice. When Maria and Sean [Pourteymour] formed this company years ago, they did it because they believed there were not enough good food choices for their kids. They wanted to create really clean, better food options, and they've done that. But we haven't put that story out there yet.”