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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 March 2014 18:13 )
DATE_FORMAT_LC2=Wednesday,March 12 2014 12:00:00 am EDT   
Mediterranean Inspiration

WestshoreWEBLittle Greek operates two mall food court locations, including this restaurant at the WestShore Mall in Tampa, Fla.Little Greek brings Mediterranean flavors to your neighborhood. The restaurant chain features a Greek-style menu with American influences. The chain is able to provide a superior experience with made-from-scratch dishes in a casual environment.


"There are not a lot of Greek restaurants in the market," says Nick Vojnovic, president of Little Greek Franchise Development. "And the ones that are in the market are mom-and-pop style restaurants. All of our food is made from scratch and the décor is much more upscale than what you're used to seeing."


In order to set itself apart from the usual Greek restaurant that tends to have a multiple-page menu and serves just about everything, Little Greek condensed its menu to hone in on pitas, salads and wraps.


Founded nine years ago, Little Greek has grown to operate 16 locations in Florida, Texas and Arkansas. The company plans to open five or six additional units in 2014, with a goal of operating 50 locations in the next five years.


The company has a strong presence in Florida since its first location opened in the Sunshine State in the Blue Ranch Shopping Center in Palmetto, Fla. The concept opened in New Port Richey in the Shoppes of Golden Acres and in Clearwater along Ulmerton Road.


In 2010, Jan and Barry Rosen from Richardson, Texas, became the first franchisees of the concept. Little Greek slowly expanded throughout the Tampa Bay area and now operates 12 stores in Florida. Additional restaurants are located in Little Rock, Ark., as well as Lakeway, Richardson and Willow Bend, Texas.


Because the company is largely franchise driven, Little Greek targets second-generation spaces in order to keep its overall investment low. The company's total investment per restaurant ranges from $125,000 to $150,000.


"As we continue to grow, the amount of inventory of shut-down restaurants has started tightening up again," says Vojnovic. "For a while Little-Greek-foodWEBLittle Greek offers a condensed menu of Greek specialties that hones in on pitas, wraps and salads.there were a lot of empty spaces because of the economy, but now it's getting tighter and more tough again."


When first growing, Little Greek was targeting spaces around 1,200 square feet. Now, the company looks for footprints ranging from 1,600 to 2,100 square feet. The larger square footage allows each restaurant to feature an exhibition kitchen where customers can watch the food preparation process.


Little Greek's broker, Brian Bern with Franklin Street Real Estate Services, says the company's sales are split with half coming from the daytime population, while the other half are from the dinner crowd. Patrons can even order online for a faster pick-up or request delivery with an online order. Additionally, a large portion of sales is derived from the company's catering services.


The chain is willing to develop stores in areas that may not have the best demographics as long as the regional draw creates enough demand. Within a two-mile radius Little Greek targets areas that have at least 25,000 people to capitalize on its delivery and catering offerings. This is why Little Greek has also adapted a non-traditional approach in its growth model by targeting mall food court locations as well. The chain has two food court restaurants at the Citrus Park Mall and WestShore Mall, both located in Tampa, Fla.


Little Greek has modeled its expansion plan after other restaurant chains such as Chipotle and Panera Bread Co. These two companies are good indicators of the market, says Vojnovic. The brand has set its sights on continuing its rapid growth in metro Dallas and the Tampa area, but it also adding Atlanta, Orlando, Fla., and the state of Alabama to its radar.

 

— Brittany Biddy

 

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