Childhood friends and first-generation Greek Americans Ted Xenohristos, Ike Grigoropoulos, and Dimitri Moshovitis first opened full-service restaurant Cava Mezze in Washington, D.C., in 2006. The fast-casual spinoff, CAVA, opened in nearby Bethesda, Maryland, in 2011 and has since grown to 75 locations across the country, bringing authentic Mediterranean flavors to American consumers in markets big and small.
“We don't necessarily look at Mediterranean as a bunch of countries on the map,” says CAVA CEO Brett Schulman. “We look at it more as a way of life, a way of being, and that kind of goes back to the core of the brand and the [founders’] culture and the origins.”
While CAVA had drawn plenty of industry attention by 2018, it really made a splash last year when it acquired rival Zoës Kitchen. The $300 million deal was spearheaded by industry icon and Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich, who joined CAVA as chairman of the board.
In this interview with QSR editor Sam Oches, Schulman discusses that huge acquisition, how CAVA has evolved since its 2011 launch, and how the brand is transforming Americans' perceptions of Mediterranean flavors and ingredients.