Thanks to a big influx of cash, Cava Grill is going bicoastal. The fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant, which was founded in Rockville, is expanding after receiving $16 million in funding, which will broaden the market for its line of dips and spreads, as well as open two restaurants in Los Angeles.
"When we say Los Angeles, some people look at us crosseyed," said CEO Brett Schulman. "We really love Los Angeles and how we can be a fit there." He and co-founders Ike Grigoropoulos, chef Dimitri Moshovitis and Ted Xenohristos, who is moving to L.A., chose the city for its large market of health-conscious diners.
The L.A. restaurants will open in the fall, after Cava opens three more D.C. locations: Fairfax in May, National Airport in late June/early July, and Ashburn in August. A full-service Cava Mezze restaurant is also planned for Baltimore's Harbor East neighborhood.
The investment will help Cava expand its line of prepared foods and dips to the Midwest, where they'll now be carried in Chicago-area Whole Foods stores. About 15 percent of Cava's business comes from its prepared foods, and Schulman says they'll open another production facility in L.A.
As for comparisons to that fast-casual giant, Chipotle?
"I think it’s incredibly high praise when you look at what they’ve built as a business and changed the paradigm of fast food," said Schulman. "But we want to continue to create a unique proposition."