Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

AUG 2019

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AUGUST 2019 FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES 79 MARKET SPOTLIGHT our rst Aviva concept. It is classical Mediterranean with a healthier modern twist," says Nas Srouji, general man- ager. His father, Kameel, has owned restaurants in the city for 40 years. At Aviva by Kameel, a 60-seat restaurant, best sellers include chicken shawarma made with hormone-free, house-sliced chicken breast grilled in extra virgin olive oil. "Ingredients include halal meats and olive oil. We use no butter and take no shortcuts," says Srouji. "Our falafel is extremely popular and fried in olive oil. We also have 20 vegan/vegetarian options for veggie platters, where customers can choose from four sides." Although Aviva by Kameel has lamb dishes on its menu, the chicken and veggie items sell best, Srouji notes. Other hot sellers include the Mediterranean salad and baba gha- noush. "Now, people are way more focused and knowledgeable about eating healthy, which is great," he says. "And, as people become more aware of what they're eating, the Mediterranean diet is starting to take off." This space focuses on creating an experience, Srouji says. "We're not here to nickel and dime customers but instead create repeat business and establish relationships." In Aviva by Kameel's 900-square- foot back of the house, separating the proteins from the vegetables is key as many of the restaurant's devotees are vegans or vegetarians. "We have sepa- rate zones for meat and vegetables and use separate grills — one for chicken, salmon and lamb, while the other is dedicated for grilling vegetables," says Srouji. "My father is pescatarian and very particular." The restaurant also uses separate sinks and cutting areas to prep meat and vegetables as well as separate utensils. A dedicated staff member preps vegetables throughout the day. Rather than using a deep fryer, Aviva by Kameel fries its falafels in a pot with olive oil. "We're not just putting frozen patties on a 'attop; there are many steps involved with our menu items," says Srouji. In another testament to Mediterranean food's appeal to college students, Aviva by Kameel's will open a midtown location later this year across from Georgia Tech. What's on the Horizon Many in the segment say the potential for Mediterranean food in the U.S. has not yet been fully realized. Little Greek is on a steady growth plan of creating 6 to 8 locations annu- ally. Part of the challenge is the lack of smaller spaces, along with high rents and cost of construction. However, Little Greek reports same-store sales growth of 5 percent year over year, with delivery services encompassing 15 percent of its sales. "With third-party delivery service fees between 25 percent and 30 percent, it's a wait and see to determine how this will impact our business models," says Vojnovic. "We have to be in the delivery game, but these high per- centages are impacting the nancial performance of our stores." Stafng across the board remains tight, as is the case across the entire food- service industry. And Vojnovic admits the Greek/Mediterranean food niche remains in its infancy. "I don't know if this segment will ever reach the size of sandwiches and burgers, but there is denitely opportunity," he says. "There are currently no dominant players yet, but there are concepts with major national footprints on the horizon." At least in the fast-casual space, solid growth and expansion remain hallmarks of the Mediterranean segment. "When you look at Mediterranean, Little Greek is adding units and expanding to the Southeast," says Tristano. "There is con- sistent growth, with units opening every year and none being shuttered. But I've always said, as strong as the demand for healthy food may be, it has been outpaced by the number of restaurants trying to serve it." The craft concepts are the ones making the most headway, Tristano adds. This revolves around specializa- tion, fewer menu items and a specic culinary in'uence that is most often associated with the fast-casual space. "When you get into the head of the Millennial, they want quality and a go-to place that does something really well," he says. "That demand is driving restaurateurs to push food truck con- cepts into brick and mortars, driving into the Mediterranean space." FE&S Aviva by Kameel's falafels are produced the old-fashioned way by frying them in a pot of oliveoil.

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