Traditional recipes

New York City's Modern Mediterranean Restaurant, TESSA, Launches Daily Lunch Service

New York City's Modern Mediterranean Restaurant, TESSA, Launches Daily Lunch Service

The Upper West Side’s neighborhood gem, TESSA, is now open for lunch daily from 11:30 a.m. Plus, since it’s nice and warm out, you can dine al fresco on the patio and people-watch while you bask in the sun.

The new lunch service features starters that include mezze trio of house dips: carrot harissa, smoked eggplant, ricotta cheese, and cucumber dill, served with house-made lavash; tarte flambée with fromage blanc, red onions, applewood smoked bacon, figs, and speck for sharing; and burrata with beets, hazelnuts, and aged balsamic.

The selection of salads features locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Some standouts are the TESSA salad with haricot vert, grapefruit, dried cherry, spiced pistachio, and an herb vinaigrette; and the tuna and stonefruit salad which comes with diced Ahi tuna, avocado, stonefruit, quinoa, and a sherry vinaigrette.

Entrées range from sandwiches and pasta to fish. On offer is the chicken club with an herb aïoli; the TESSA burger with beef and pancetta, fontina, caramelized onion, and rosemary fries; as well as an Ahi tuna sandwich with crispy pancetta. Other options are the linguini with Tasmanian pepper and lemon, or an omelette, if you’re not quite ready for a full lunch yet.

Refreshing lunch beverages include your choice of house-made cherry-lime soda or orange cream soda, or a summery cocktail such as the Latitude Zero with Leblon cachaça, lavender-honey, and Chambord.

Next time you’re in the Upper West, pop in for an upscale lunch (then maybe some ice cream cones at Emack & Bolio’s for dessert!).

For more New York City dining and travel news, click here.


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”


The 40/40 List: America's Hottest Startup Fast Casuals

Last year, we had an epiphany: So much of the fast-casual innovation we kept raving about was flowing out of the same set of emerging brands that had only a handful of locations at best. Those young pups were forcing much larger brands to re-evaluate their own operations as the upstarts thrived in cities across the country. We chose to recognize those young brands much like other publications recognize young leaders: with a 40 Under 40 list, only in our case, qualifying entrants by locations rather than age.

We identified core criteria for what set those fast casual 2.0 chains apart: chef-driven menus, premium hospitality, a focus on experience rather than value, enhanced beverage programs, high-quality ingredients, ambitions other than growth and profit, a collaborative spirit, and commitment to long-term relationships with stakeholders. Last year’s curated 40/40 List was so successful that we’re bringing it back—and we’re taking it one step further. Rather than identify the same set of brands year after year until they crack the 40-unit ceiling—yawn—we figured that, just like those 40 Under 40 lists, we’d graduate the whole class and introduce you to a brand-new set of innovators.

When Shannon Allen opened the first Grown—a USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant—in Miami in the summer of 2016, it was personal: One of her children with her husband, former NBA star Ray Allen, had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and there were no convenient, healthy food options available to the family, particularly in a drive thru. But a year and a half and five additional locations later, Shannon Allen says Grown’s mission is so much bigger than she could have imagined.

“What I didn’t realize is it’s not just about the busy mom,” she says. “There’s a whole host of people on this planet that feel disenfranchised by the kind of food being offered in drive-thru windows. There are people who are vegans and vegetarians and pescatarians and Celiacs and who have Hashimoto’s disease and who are battling cancer and who have kids battling peanut allergies that just don’t eat out anymore. We really have become a safe haven for those folks.”

Grown’s menu is, as its mission states, “real food, cooked slow for fast people.” It’s 100 percent organic, using fresh ingredients without GMOs, preservatives, hormones, or processed sugars. Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request the kids’ menu is completely gluten-free. That wholesome menu approach is catching on. Since Grown’s first location opened along a commercial strip in Miami, three locations have opened in Miami sports stadiums, another opened in an on-campus bookstore at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, and the latest opened in an Orlando-area Walmart.

Allen says nontraditional locations are going to be Grown’s sweet spot moving forward. “When I think about Grown, I think we really belong in captive-audience spaces—places like airports, hospital lobbies, college campuses, busy stretches of highway, sports arenas—places where people have been frustrated,” she says. While she initially conceived Grown’s expansion to remain corporate-owned so that she could better control its organic integrity, Allen says her long-term goal—a very-specific 9,400 locations worldwide—has led to a change of heart. The brand is launching a franchise program this year, with interested parties across the country already lining up.

“There are disciples out there who want a Grown or multiple Growns. They want to be a part of this mission,” she says. “If I want 9,400 locations in captive-audience locations all over the world, I can’t do it by myself.”

It’s not uncommon to find a celeb chef behind a hot new fast casual—but Ivy Leaguers? Founded by three Yale graduate students, Junzi Kitchen brings forth Northern Chinese staples like noodle bowls and bings (wraps) for the lunch crowd, while weekend visitors can lounge with specialty small plates and cocktails. The brand moved in on the Big Apple last summer and already has two additional locations in the works. Next up? Los Angeles.

Mixt has only expanded to 10 California locations in its first 12 years, but that slow growth is for good reason: Founders David and Leslie Silverglide, along with business partner and chef Andrew Swallow, have been working on perfecting the guest experience ever since they bought the company back from a private-equity group in 2012, and they spearheaded a significant brand refresh in 2016. Now the founders (who make up the parent company Good Food Guys) are content with the model, which includes an expanded dinner menu and enhanced beverage program, with options like craft beer, artisan wine, and a kombucha bar. The next step for the team is expanding Mixt beyond California.

Chef Tom Colicchio’s fast-casual concept has been around since 2003 and already struggled through growing pains, having downsized from nearly 20 to six locations. But after a face-lift in 2016 that featured bold new branding and an in-store design that harped on its fresh ingredients, the sandwich joint is ready to grow again, and is looking at the I-95 corridor (Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.) for potential expansion.

HQ: Scottsdale, Arizona

It doesn’t always take a restaurant mastermind to develop a successful multiunit concept. Just ask Keely Newman and Kelley Bird, two moms who started Grabbagreen out of their home kitchens in Arizona when they wanted to develop more wholesome food options for their kids. Grabbagreen’s healthy menu—featuring bowls, salads, juices, smoothies, and more—is designed around superfoods and unprocessed ingredients without preservatives, GMOs, or hormones.

“Everything is made in less than five minutes from raw to cooked,” Newman says. “A lot of our ingredients stay raw. … We steam our vegetables and our proteins. We don’t grill them, so they don’t have carcinogens.”

Newman says she’s connected with a legion of like-minded people who are passionate about clean and healthy eating. That’s helped fuel growth even though the company just launched franchising in 2015, it’s averaging about two new locations opening per month and has development deals in place for dozens more. “I haven’t spent a marketing dollar in terms of franchise marketing,” Newman says.

“These are people who found us because people want healthy food, and investors and potential operators and potential franchisees want to do something that they’re passionate about.” That growth hasn’t been restricted to major urban markets like some other health-forward concepts. Grabbagreen has locations in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Temple, Texas—towns that are “probably overlooked by a lot of our competitors,” Newman says, but where they’re nonetheless “dying for healthy foods.”

The challenge moving forward? Newman says 80 percent of consumers are scared of healthy foods, forcing Grabbagreen to either target a smaller audience or work hard to educate a broader one. “Our pie is really kind of small, and we have all these concepts out there vying for this rather small pie,” she says. “For us, our challenge is, how do we tap into that 80 percent who are really intimidated [and] scared?”

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

When Jon Rollo launched Greenleaf in 2007, he wanted to create a restaurant where people could feel good about eating every day—a place with clean, healthy foods that are also familiar and delicious. That idea is now an eight-unit fast casual serving a far-ranging menu that includes salads and sandwiches, as well as pizzas, tacos, and plated entrées. Most Greenleaf locations also have indoor-outdoor patio seating, full bars, and on-site chef gardens from which team members can source ingredients for both food and cocktails.

Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

The term fast casual didn’t even exist back when Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 1992. But a fast-casual experience, even if it didn’t have a name, was exactly what founder Steven Paperno created when he designed a concept that combined authentic Mexican recipes with fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since then, Sharky’s has grown to 28 locations in California, Nevada, and Oregon, through franchising.

Debbie Roxarzade first made a name for herself as a restaurateur in Los Angeles, where she ran seven restaurants that served fresh food at affordable prices. After relocating to the Las Vegas area, Roxarzade launched Rachel’s Kitchen (named after her daughter) in 2006 with a menu featuring breakfast, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and juices, all of it using fresh and often locally sourced ingredients. Rachel’s Kitchen started franchising in 2010, and is now looking at the Phoenix area for its first growth outside of its home market.

Having originated in Nantucket, Oath has since taken Boston by storm, opening six locations in and around the city. The fast casual secured a $7 million investment in 2017 and is plotting major expansion, which began with its first location in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Oath sets itself apart from the fast-casual pizza pack by sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients it’s staked its claim as the first pizza chain to be granted certified humane approval. Crusts are hand-stretched, then grilled and seared in avocado oil for extra crispness.

In addition to its legion of admirers who flock to the shop for its creative and downright eccentric flavors, Salt & Straw has made a believer out of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group the famed restaurateur’s company invested in the concept this past May. Even so, cofounder Kim Malek and the brand plan to approach growth organically and focus on building a great team. Founded in 2011 by Malek and her cousin, Tyler, Salt & Straw is king when it comes to quirky it’s featured flavors like blue cheese with pears, olive oil, and bone marrow. Salt & Straw crafts each 5-gallon batch by hand and adds all mix-ins during the process.

By now, descriptors like “farm to table” and “better burger” feel less fresh—almost plain worn-out. It’s almost expected that premium fast-casual chains should source from farm to table, while the number of better-burger chains has surpassed critical mass. But no concept walks the walk quite like Farm Burger, which, to this day, still brings a certain heft and legitimacy to the two terms. Nearly a decade ago, Jason Mann and George Frangos teamed up to create a local-minded restaurant, but unlike so many other concepts, this one would be built from the farmer’s point of view.

“Farmers are a shrewd bunch. They work hard and want to see the most return they can for their efforts,” Mann says. “Farm Burger really was an experiment in that, how does a farmer—aka me—develop a concept that is driven by the producers?”

Mann had worked as an organic farmer in California before moving to Athens, Georgia. A self-described entrepreneur, Mann quickly started a movement. He not only ran an agricultural facility at the University of Georgia, but he also opened full-service concept Farm 255 and founded an organic co-op farm to supply the restaurant. A restaurateur and veteran of the slow-food movement, Frangos had worked at D.C.’s first certified organic restaurant, Nora, as well as Savoy in New York City. Through this combined expertise, the cofounders set Farm Burger up as a trailblazer—and not just in terms of sourcing.

“We really were ahead of the curve on not just the sourcing side, but also on the fine-casual/fast-casual ticket,” Mann says. “We really brought a deep culinary sensibility to our menu and scratch cooking across the board.”

Indeed, the brand has stayed firmly connected to its agricultural roots by continuing to source local, antibiotic-free, ethically raised meats and by using the whole animal. Farm Burger puts equal care into its produce, with premium salad and vegetarian options. Today, Farm Burger numbers 10 brick-and-mortar locations across the Southeast, plus two California outposts. Last year the brand also opened its first nontraditional location in the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Mann says it is the only NFL stadium to boast local, 100 percent grass-fed burgers. Next up, the company will launch its own loyalty app and try to tackle the conundrum of keeping burgers and fries fresh throughout the delivery process. To fuel smart, sustainable growth, Farm Burger brought industry heavyweight Doug Pendergast, former Krystal and Quiznos CEO, onboard as president and COO. And while the brand isn’t one to toot its horn, Mann knows that bringing Farm Burger’s origin story into the spotlight will be key to its ultimate success.

“I urge customers and eaters to do the work ask the questions from the people in the restaurant,” Mann says. “It’s mandatory that if you work at a Farm Burger, you visit the farms. It’s important for them to be able to tell the story of what Farm Burger stands for and its origin story.”