Founder & CEO • Grabbagreen
Keely Newman was a vice president at CitiGroup before she founded healthy fast-food concept Grabbagreen with friend Kelley Bird. She was also a mother who was frustrated by the lack of wholesome food options when she traveled with her children.
Newman attributes much of Arizona-based Grabbagreen’s success to the fact that she didn’t start in the restaurant industry and therefore didn’t follow convention. She also says being a woman in what has often been a boys’ club can also be a positive. “In a lot of ways, that sometimes plays to your advantage because you’re an anomaly,” she says.
While she is excited by the rapid, word-of-mouth growth of the brand, her No. 1 goal is encouraging healthy eating habits among children.
“We have a children’s table in every location, [and] seeing that table filled with little kids who drove their parents to Grabbagreen is what is very exciting to me,” she says.
President & COO, Sweetgreen
Karen Kelley, a restaurant industry industry veteran and startup whisperer, joined sweetgreen as president and chief operating officer in late 2013 after successful stints with fro-yo concept Pinkberry and salon chain Drybar. Kelley has been tasked with helping founders Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru, and Jonathan Neman scale their vision for sweetgreen while protecting the brand values at its foundation. Click here to read more about how Kelley is building on the concept's momentum.
Bettina Stern & Suzanne Simon
Fifteen years ago, Chaia cofounders Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon were in a cookbook club together and wanted to open a business. When their hopes to launch a food truck were dashed, the pair decided to direct their enthusiasm into a blog named “Loulies,” for Stern’s grandmother. The blog featured recipes, kitchen tricks, and shopping tips. Having established a foothold on the D.C. food scene through the blog, Stern and Simon finally launched their business in 2015: Chaia, a Mexican fast casual. Read more about the business here.
Chef, Stall 11
Chef Melanie Molinaro has all the trappings of a rock star chef: a fine-dining pedigree, a smattering of stylish tattoos, and close ties with a trendy, local farm. What’s less expected is this chef’s new concept, Stall 11, which will be elevating vegetarian and vegan fare. Molinaro’s Stall 11 was the second concept to come onboard Baltimore food hall R. House, which will eventually host a total of 10 limited-service concepts. Find out more about Stall 11 here.
Owner and Chef, Kasa Indian Eatery
When Anamika Khanna cofounded Kasa Indian Eatery in San Francisco in 2008, she wanted to start a revolution: She wanted Americans to fall in love with Indian cuisine. But long before entering the fast-casual scene, Khanna held a deep passion for food. Throughout her time growing up in the projects, attending the London School of Economics, and working as a lawyer and later a stay-at-home mom, Khanna has always loved to cook. Read more about Khanna and Kasa Indian Eatery here.
Adriana López Vermut
Owner and Cofounder, Pica Pica
Eight years ago when Adriana López Vermut gave birth to her first child, her father asked how she would stay connected to her Venezuelan heritage. The two hatched a plan to introduce the Bay Area to Venezuelan cuisine and thus Pica Pica was founded. Specializing in authentic arepas—hot corn-patty pockets stuffed with hearty fillings like beef and plantains—Pica Pica has become a mainstay in the Mission district and was even featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” Read more about Vermut and Pica Pica here.
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