Scarborough is still Tender Green’s head lettuce grower and supplies its produce to the majority of the restaurant’s California locations.

If Tender Greens does indeed double its brick-and-mortar footprint in two years as planned, Stein said he would increase plantings by 130 percent.

“I’m currently growing 250,000 heads of lettuce per week,” he said.

His produce output takes into account losses in the field and warehouses, too, he added. Scarborough’s other clients include produce distributors nationwide.

Expansion experience

Bruno, an Apple Inc. and Drybar Holdings alum, replaced co-founder Erik Oberholtzer and serves in the dual roles of president and chief executive. Oberholtzer is now executive chairman of the fast-casual restaurant brand.

This is Bruno’s first stint as chief executive in the restaurant field, but she said her experience in retail strategy cuts across industries. At Apple, she worked on the retail development team in the late 90s, helping come up with the Apple store concept. Other stints include vice president of retail strategy and market expansion at Emeryville-based Peets Coffee & Tea, and her most recent gig was president of retail operations at Irvine-based Drybar, a chain of salons primarily offering hair styling services. During Bruno’s three-year tenure from 2014 to 2017, Drybar’s locations grew to 55 from 28.

The upcoming expansion push for Tender Greens is focused on the East Coast. The restaurant has partnered up with Gotham Greens, which grows its produce on rooftops using hydroponics.

“Growing on rooftops in NYC makes a lot of sense as land is extremely expensive, and rooftops are an underutilized class of real estate,” said Viraj Puri, founder of Gotham Greens.

The produce company has expanded to additional cities (including Chicago and Baltimore) and isn’t limited to just rooftop real estate. Its primary competitors are large-scale industrial farms on the West Coast.

“Ninety-eight percent of lettuces and herbs that are grown domestically come from Arizona and California, and travel thousands of miles before reaching consumers in other parts of the country,” Puri said.

And therein lies the issue, said Salar Sheik, of West L.A.-based Savory Hospitality Consulting, another restaurant consultancy.

“Tender Greens’ ethos and its distinction is that it’s a fast-casual restaurant chain that’s known for its fresh, quality food,” he said.

Bruno’s challenge, Sheik said, would be quality control issues. “It’s easier to do what you’re doing with 20 to 30 restaurants when dealing with perishable goods. Can they have the same stellar quality when its 50 or 60? Expansion isn’t the issue, keeping up with the quality will be.”

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