In this exclusive Q&A, we learn more about the Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh franchise opportunity from Eric Lavinder, chief development officer at WOWorks, parent company of Garbanzo.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you give a little background on the brand’s concept and food?
Eric Lavinder (EL): Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh is the leading fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant in America. Garbanzo is making fresh Mediterranean cuisine a mainstream favorite across the United States. Its authentic, nutrient-rich dishes are inspired by tradition but not bound by it. Every order is customized to the guest’s liking, with choices from top-quality meats and plant-based proteins to authentic laffa wraps and perfect, pillowy pitas baked in-house throughout the day. Garbanzo is dedicated to satisfying every palate – including vegan and gluten-free diners – and wants to show America how delicious nutrition can be.
Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh is part of WOWorks, a parent company family of restaurant brands that also includes Saladworks, Frutta Bowls and The Simple Greek.
Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh and its menu represent more than just a meal or snack – its food comes from the healthiest region in the world and is rooted in traditional meals that haven’t changed in a thousand years. The menu features customizable stuffed pitas, laffas, traditional gyros, bowls, plates and salads that are packed with unique earth-grown flavors, like olive oil, paprika and hummus, making each dish simple, clean and good for you.
FC: How large is the Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh Restaurant system now and what are your plans for growth?
EL: Garbanzo currently has 23 locations open from traditional sites to non-traditional sites across the country. Our non-traditional locations are in airports and college campuses. As the franchise furthers development, it looks to diversify in more non-traditional retail presences, such as airports, universities, ghost kitchens, military bases and grocery stores.
We recently acquired The Simple Greek and already have plans to transition some The Simple Greek locations into Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh restaurants. We plan to be a 100-location brand by the end of 2022.
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FC: What would you say are your brand’s biggest differentiators for prospective franchisees looking to invest?
EL: There are a few things that set us apart. First, our food is fresh, nutrient-dense, and customizable to meet any lifestyle choice, dietary needs and taste. Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh is on a mission to make delicious and nutritious, scratch-made Mediterranean cuisine a mainstream favorite across the United States. We are proud to serve authentic, delicious and nutrient-rich dishes free of preservatives or MSG. Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh blends bold, guilt-free flavors with an approachable “co-creation” modern service style all set in an inviting and comfortable environment.
Second, we pride ourselves on supporting our franchise owners to help them become successful. Protecting and growing our brand and supporting our partners every step of the way in order for them to be the best they can be is what sets us apart from other franchise companies.
Third, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh is extremely appealing to Millennial and GenZ consumers that are pushing the demand for fast, nutrient-dense and flavorful food options. The brand is the perfect fit to meet the demand for healthy meals that can be customized to fit a number of dietary needs and lifestyles, such as vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free.
FC: Tell us more about Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh’s opening in Salt Lake City Airport?
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EL: We are excited about our partnership with OHM Concession Group and this new opening because we know having Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh in the region’s largest airport is a great way to showcase the brand to travelers and potential operators from North America and beyond. The brand is a great fit in non-traditional locations, such as airports, because the high-quality, flavorful and customizable menu Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh serves is on-trend with guests who are seeking nourishing meals while on the go.
The Salt Lake City airport debut will put the brand in front of a high volume of travelers through the position as a major Delta Airlines hub. The restaurant will be part of the new 900,000-square-foot Concourse A that will house 25 gates and the largest-ever Delta Sky Club, including an outdoor Sky Deck. Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh will provide full support with store layout and design, training and operations.
FC: What was the biggest change to your business over the past year in response to the pandemic?
EL: When the pandemic hit, we were fortunate that our business was prepared with online ordering and third-party delivery systems were already in place. This meant that when in-person dining was shut down, we were already ahead of the competition. Our stores are also set up for a customer to get their food quickly. The pandemic grew our online orders and third-party delivery sales compared to previous years. We did not have to change our process – it just meant we had less customers having direct interaction with our staff. We believe online orders and third-party deliveries will always be important to our business. However, customer interaction will always be at the forefront of our business.
FC: Tell us more about your success in non-traditional verticals and your plans to move it forward.
EL: The Mediterranean food category is extremely popular due to the meals being a healthy choice. At Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, we make it quick and easy for customers to get a delicious and nutritious meal. Our non-traditional locations allow us to get to our customers from different avenues – from airports to college campuses. Our plan is to not only grow our traditional footprint but also continue to open locations within airports, college campuses, ghost kitchens, combo kitchens and other opportunities that continue to come our way.
Before the end of 2021, we will be opening one additional airport and two more university Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh restaurants. We think this is a tremendous opportunity to grow our brand awareness and create success for our partners.
FC. What are your additional revenue streams for the brand?
EL: In additions to our brick-and-mortar locations, we have several other avenues of growing our business. We believe catering is one of our greatest opportunities to grow revenue. As we see office buildings and people going back to work, we can cater their lunches and events. Our food is also great for family gatherings, parties and entertaining situations.
FC: Any other information you’d like to share about the brand?
EL: We can’t wait to bring Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh around the country. We believe Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh is leading the way in the United States to bring Mediterranean food to everyone.