An obscure salad chain backed by Shake Shack's founder is about to blow up

The California salad chain Tender Greens is about to launch a major expansion.

The chain, which bills its menu as “slow food done fast,” just got a minority investment from Danny Meyer, the CEO of one of the most successful restaurants companies in New York City. The New York Times first reported the investment.

Tender Greens says it will use the investment to open more restaurant in California and beyond. The chain, founded in 2006 currently has 22 locations in California. 

The investment is notable because it’s the first time that Meyer’s firm, The Union Hospitality Group, has taken a stake in an outside concept.

Meyer will join Tender Greens’ board of directors as part of the deal. The Union Square Hospitality Group has owned more than a dozen renowned restaurants including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Blue Smoke.

“Every now and then, I’ll visit a restaurant and love the idea — the food, the people, the culture — so much that I wish I’d thought of it myself,” Meyer, who founded Shake Shack, said in a statement. “That’s exactly what happened with Tender Greens.”

Tender Greens sources the food on its menu from local farmers, ranchers, artisans, boutique wineries, breweries and coffee roasters, according to the company. 

The chain’s salads include Southern fried chicken on romaine with dill dressing (pictured below) and salami with kale, roasted fennel, fingerling potatoes, crispy garbanzo beans, and Parmesan.

“From the grill” meat options — including Chipotle Barbecue Chicken, Backyard Marinated Steak, and Herb Brushed Albacore Tuna — can be served on a platter with sides, on a sandwich, or on a salad.

Here’s the salami and kale salad:

Here’s the same salad, but served on a sandwich: 

Most of the entrees at Tender Greens cost $US11.50. 

The chain was named one of the “10 Best Chain Restaurants in the World” by Condé Nast Traveller last year. It was also named in 2014 as one of America’s most promising companies by Forbes.

“We waited to find the right partner who shares our same philosophy about building a company that we would want to work for and that everyone would love,” Tender Greens co-founder David Dressler said in a statement.

With the new investment — the terms of which have not been disclosed — “we begin our next chapter with a strategic partner who has a collection of the finest restaurants in New York with 26 James Beard Awards to their credit, the creator of the better burger phenom Shake Shack, and their founder (and our hero) Danny Meyer on our board of directors,” Dressler said. “Not to mention access to growth and development resources we have always wanted, and a network of other special brands to collaborate with and learn from.”

Some of the dishes are more creative, like these Cajun shrimp and corn quinoa waffles with cilantro, caramelised red onions and Pecorino cheese. 

At its West Hollywood location, the chain has tomato plants growing near the outdoor dining area.

The interior of the restaurants is rustic and modern with wooden tables and chairs. 

There is no table service. Customers line up to order their food, like at Chipotle. 

Some Tender Greens locations, including the one in San Diego, have started serving breakfast.

Many of the restaurants are run by chefs with backgrounds in fine dining,

The West Hollywood store, for example, is run by executive chef Ali Ohta, who trained with Gordon Ramsay and worked at restaurants like Nobu and the Westside Tavern in Los Angeles before coming to Tender Greens.

Pastas, burgers, and tacos are available at some locations.

The restaurants also have an array of pastries and desserts, like this blackberry pop tart.


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