It took more than 20 years, but Zoës Kitchen has arrived

An emphasis on fresh, healthy fare seems like a good Colorado fit

It took more than 20 years, but Zoës Kitchen has arrived. The Alabama-born, Mediterranean-inspired, fast-casual chain made its Colorado debut in March when it opened at Southwest Plaza in Littleton, followed by another opening, at Bradburn Village in Westminster, this April.

The Front Range fast-casual market is a crowded and competitive one, but Zoës Kitchen CEO Kevin Miles sees the demographics and Zoës’ emphasis of fresh and healthy fare – no microwaves or fryers – as a good fit.

“Denver’s probably the birthplace of fast-casual,” Miles said, also dubbing it one of the five healthiest markets. “You have wonderful concepts that have been phenomenally successful. We’ve been extremely excited about this market for lots of reasons. One, just the awareness of fast-casual. Secondly, the ability to bring this type of food to the fast-casual environment.”

One of those Denver-based, fast-casual concepts that will no doubt invite comparisons is Garbanzo Fresh Mediterranean, founded in 2008. The private chain formerly known as Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill boasts 20 restaurants, including 14 in Colorado.

Publicly traded Zoës Kitchen got its start in Birmingham, Ala., in 1995 when a Greek woman named Zoe (of course) opened the first restaurant. The family built it up to 16 locations before selling to a private equity firm.

Zoës went public in 2014 and has grown to 176 restaurants (all but one of which is company-owned) in 19 states. Investors seem to like what they’ve seen of the company’s recent growth plans and execution; Zoës stock price was up 34 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

The Plano, Texas-based company plans to open four more restaurants along the Front Range this year: Fort Collins in June; Denver’s Union Station in August; Boulder (29th Street) in September; and Flat Irons in Broomfield in November.

Categories: Company Perspectives