Many retail concepts play it safe with expansion, growing first into nearby markets before moving outward in concentric circles to other cities and states. But not Cava Grill. The Mediterranean-based fast casual 2.0 was so confident in its brand that it leaped the entire country for its second market, making Los Angeles its first home away from its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
“We knew it was going to be a pretty significant undertaking, starting a new market 3,000 miles from our home,” says Brett Schulman, Cava’s CEO, of the move to L.A. a year ago. “But it’s been really great. Everything out there has given us the confidence to continue to add restaurants, and we’re excited about the reception we’ve seen from the consumer in the market.”
Cava launched in 2011 as a spin-off of Cava Mezze, a full-service Greek restaurant opened by childhood friends Ike Grigoropoulos, Dimitri Moshovitis, and Ted Xenohristos. It offers a chef-driven menu of customizable bowls, salads, and pitas, with proteins like falafel, spicy lamb meatballs, and braised beef; dips and spreads like tzatziki, hummus, and harissa; and toppings like mint, tabbouleh, and crumbled feta.
The brand now has a large presence in the D.C. market, on top of three restaurants open in Southern California (with four more coming online this year). Cava also opened in New York last year and has spent the last year tightening the screws on the operations, which includes the recent rollout of a new ordering app.
Schulman says the success of the California restaurants has given Cava Grill the go-ahead to pursue growth across the country—growth that is dictated by a strong local supply chain.
“What we’ve learned is starting fresh in a market where there’s very little awareness of the Cava brand doesn’t inhibit us from success,” he says. “We’ve been able to succeed out there and build the awareness. The offering we have is relevant to multiple regions of this country.”