Chipotle came out triumphant as the biggest name in the fast-casual chains. With this movement growing with brands like Chopt’, Simple Greens, and Qdoba, now another is entering the rink: VERTS Mediterranean Grill.
VERTS is a Mediterranean fast-casual eatery started by German born entrepreneurs Dominik Stein and Michael Heyne. VERTS has quickly become one of the fastest growing brands out there in the restaurant industry’s fastest-growing segment. Total Food Service sat down with Heyne to find out more about VERTS, their NYC location, and their expansion to the East Coast.
Heyne and Stein both moved from Germany in 2010 for their undergrad exchange semester. They came to Dallas to obtain their bachelors and MBA at the University of Texas at Austin and never really left. Looking for a challenge after graduation the pair saw there was something missing in the Austin food scene. “We saw an opportunity for Mediterranean casual food in the United States. We had the idea two years before so we worked, we prepared for this and almost did our MBA program with the intention to start this company because we needed a visa. So it was not like we had this idea and quickly founded it but there were two years of planning in Germany,” said Heyne.
VERTS started in 2011 and blew up from there, growing quickly with three openings in their first year. The second year another two bringing the total to 7 alone in Austin. The third year held major growth for VERTS going from 7 stores to 20 and expanding into Houston. Last year they added another 10 locations in Dallas, Houston and Austin.
VERTS is now ready to grow on a national scale with plans to grow between 200 and 260 locations by 2020. On their fifth year of business VERTS is moving to the East Coast with locations in NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia. By the time you read this the two Boston locations and Philly location plan to be open. By February VERTS is scheduled to have five locations on the East Coast. Amongst those locations is their NYC location opening on Madison Square Park right next to Chopt’ and other fast-casual eateries. The NYC location is scheduled to be open by mid January.
“With a unique sense of marketing VERTS focuses on the community around them. We want to connect with the local community, and sponsor more on micro level local events and be present in things that happen in the region around the restaurant, and focus on, for example, sampling and giving people tastes of,” said Heyne. It’s not stopping for NYC either, VERTS is working on having pop-up shops, co-branding with local spots, three course fine dining nights, and pop-up events.
VERTS doesn’t stop there either. Their chefs all come from a past of fine dining, with staff coming from two Michelin star restaurants like David Chang’s Momofuku. “We intentionally hire people from a very strong fine dining background. And what that triggers is a lot of findings on how you can improve fast-casual with techniques from fine dining, but you don’t need chefs to do that,” said Heyne. The culinary team is being led by Chef Brent Mills and Chef Kate Schirm and will be growing to six chefs by Christmas. With simplicity in mind, VERTS has created a simplistic dining experience. You have four different bases, usually five different proteins, including falafels. They even include a vegan and gluten free option. Along with proteins you have an assortment of fresh vegetables and the choice of seven different sauces, obviously all with a Mediterranean focus, all made fresh every hour every day.
VERTS really understands what people are looking for when eating. They have created a minimalist interior design from Chipman Design of Chicago and a kitchen design from Concept Services out of Boston. VERTS has now become one of the fastest growing casual eateries with a great message, lean and enticing menu, a great business plan and are now moving to our neck of the woods.
For more information on VERTS, visit their website.