Relationships with local farmers and a focus on ingredients has been a driving force for Tender Greens since it started 11 years ago. Formed out of founders Erik Oberholtzer, David Dressler, and Matt Lyman's experience in fine dining, the brand has an executive chef at each location to oversee what it calls "slow food done fast."
“It’s not that we have one corporate chef or one person that does the whole menu; it’s that every single restaurant has its own executive chef that runs the restaurant and then also makes really incredible daily specials,” says Christina Wong, director of PR and brand expression for Tender Greens. “It’s the type of specials you’d find at a four-star restaurant that are available for $30 a plate, but at Tender Greens, we make them available for $12 or $13.”
Tender Greens has taken a “slow growth” approach with its 24 California locations, Wong says. But after the 2015 investment from Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group, the brand will soon start opening outside of California and growing at a quicker pace.
“We want to be all over,” Wong says. “The vision is that, in the next five to 10 years, we’ll double the amount of locations we have. We’re heading to the East Coast at the end of this year and in 2018, so we’re going to start opening up outside of California for the first time and then continue to open in major markets.”
Of course, with growth comes potential challenges; sourcing may become more difficult for Tender Greens locations outside the Golden State.
“We’re fortunate here to have the best produce and wonderful weather year-round to grow great produce nearby,” Wong says. “As we go to the East Coast, for us it’s all about sourcing. How do we find the same great-quality product without having to ship it across the country? Sacrificing quality isn’t something we’re willing to do, so it’s just about getting more creative.” That includes working with vertical farms and indoor growing units, she adds.