The Veggie Grill chain is moving out of California for the first time with a joint-venture partnership that will bring the meatless brand to the Portland, Ore., area with a veteran restaurant developer.
Based in Santa Monica, Calif., the seven-unit Veggie Grill on Friday said it had formed a partnership with Ed Casey, a franchise operator who has developed Baja Fresh, Applebee’s and T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants in the region over the past three decades.
Casey also previously served as president and chief executive officer of The Counter, the casual-dining burger chain based in Los Angeles.
The partnership with Casey is being financed substantially by Veggie Grill, the company said, though details were not released.
The first location is scheduled to open this month in Beaverton, Ore., a Portland suburb where NIKE Inc. is based. A second unit is scheduled to open in downtown Portland in May.
Greg Dollarhyde, Veggie Grill’s chief executive, said the company is planning to have three locations open in the Portland area before the end of 2012 in partnership and more are possible.
“We anticipate great success in Portland, which self-reports that 18 percent of people eat vegetarian when they dine out,” Dollarhyde said.
Veggie Grill also has two signed leases in Seattle, which will be corporate-owned locations he added.
The fast-casual Veggie Grill is known for its all-plant-based menu with no meat, dairy, cholesterol, trans fat, refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
Veggie Grill started the year with double-digit same-store sales growth, said Dollarhyde, adding that the company last summer raised $11 million for new openings that will include eight locations up and down the West Coast. The Pacific Northwest, San Francisco and Los Angeles will be target markets.
“We want to double the company every 12 to 18 months,” Dollarhyde said.
Although most new locations will be company owned, Dollarhyde said he is open to more joint ventures.
Dollarhyde has worked with Casey in the past. Casey was one of Baja Fresh’s largest franchisees when Dollarhyde owned and was chief executive of that chain. The two also worked together in the 1980s as executives at T.G.I. Friday’s, he said.
“We’ll look at the joint venture model. We like it and I can see doing more of these in certain markets,” Dollarhyde said. “It all comes down to finding the right partner.”