Saladworks parent WoWorks is growing once more with the addition of The Simple Greek, a 24-unit fast casual based in Ohio.

WoWorks formed in December after Center Lane Partners, LLC acquired Frutta Bowls and the bankrupt Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh. Saladworks leader Kelly Roddy, who joined the company in 2019, is serving as CEO of the now four-unit group.

The new holding company’s mission is to drive massive growth while serving “healthy, nutritious, and flavorful fuel.” That drove the purchase of The Simple Greek, as well as the earlier acquisition of Garbanzo and Frutta.

“We are thrilled to welcome The Simple Greek to the WOWorks family during this exciting time of growth within our portfolio of restaurant brands,” Roddy said in a statement. “Guests are looking for menu choices that do more than merely sate their appetite in the moment, but serve as fuel to help nourish their mind, body and soul. With a menu centered around the Mediterranean Diet, The Simple Greek fits perfectly into a healthy, active lifestyle.”  

The Simple Creek was founded in 2015 by Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and host of CNBC’s “The Profit.” Franchising began a year later. According to WoWorks, the young concept aims to “redefine the traditional Greek restaurant with an interactive concept that combines high-quality ingredients, open kitchens and Greek atmosphere in a fast-casual setting.” Consumers are able to make their own pita or bowl with a variety of proteins, toppings, sauces, and finishes. The brand has stores in more than a dozen states spanning from California to Connecticut.

Combined, the four brands operate more than 215 stores in the U.S. Saladworks—which oversees more than 100 stores—is the largest among them. The brand opened more than 40 locations in 2020, and entered new markets such as Canada, California, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Ohio, Florida, and Indiana. Of those openings, about 80 percent were in non-traditional locations like ghost kitchens, food trucks, grocery stores, hospitals, and colleges.

Saladworks’ first half of 2021 includes at least 20 new openings, nine franchisees seeking site selection, and five stores under construction.

Meanwhile, the 25-unit Garbanzo is coming off a stressful year that saw sales declining, on average, between 50 and 75 percent from March to mid-May. By August, the brand was down 20 percent, but catering was still 90 percent below pre-pandemic levels. At certain units, catering mixed as much as 30 percent of the business before the crisis. About 42 percent of Garbanzo franchises were located at colleges and universities—areas that were hit hard because of remote learning. Garbanzo said in its bankruptcy filing that franchise royalty income fell by more than 90 percent since the onset of COVID.

Despite the recent struggles, CEO James Park said the chain has a “favorable path for growth post-pandemic.” WoWorks expects aggressive unit expansion from both Garbanzo and the 37-unit Frutta, including cobranded locations.

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Story