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This Greek Fusion Franchise Doubled Its Nationwide Units During the Pandemic

Bob Andersen, president of The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill, explains how the fusion restaurant started, the key to growing an emerging brand and why exceptional customer experiences are more important than ever.

The restaurant industry has had a rough couple of years following the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the challenges have resulted in several brands shuttering their stores for good, some emerging franchisors are proving to be uniquely pandemic-proof. In that way, many of tomorrow’s biggest chains are likely just getting started today. Great Greek Mediterranean Grill, for example, is an emerging Greek-Mediterranean fusion restaurant that maintained its number of franchisees and actually doubled its units nationwide during the pandemic.

Images courtesy of The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill.

The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill brand opened its first location in Nevada in 2011. “The founders wanted to take their Greek heritage and offer fine-dining quality food in a fast-casual environment,” said Bob Andersen, president of The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill. “We deliver great-tasting and delicious Mediterranean food made-to-order, with the highest quality meats, Gyros, chicken, steak, lamb and more. The vision was to provide great Mediterranean food and culture to the public, and we’ve been on the cutting edge of that mission for 11 years now.”

The Mediterranean food industry has grown rapidly over the past decade, as Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine have become increasingly popular. This growth has primarily been driven by Mediterranean food becoming a popular option for fast-casual dining.

Images courtesy of The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill.

Fueled by this growing popularity, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill franchised its concept in 2016 under United Franchise Group. “When the first store first opened, it had great success, and after our partners came in and helped put the operational systems in place and perfect the business model, we opened a second location that saw even greater success,” said Andersen. “That is when we knew the brand would do well in markets all over the country. The food was outstanding, and the systems in place made the business easy to replicate.”

In just six years, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill has grown its footprint to include 24 total units (six company units and 18 franchised units). Currently, Andersen says the brand has 200 stores in development and is on track to open 20 to 25 restaurants by the end of 2022 and 35 to 40 by the end of 2023. 

“For operators, we have a brand that is very appealing to the consumer, whether that be lunch, dinner or mid-day service,” said Andersen. “We also appeal to a diverse clientele and many different cultures and can serve customers with strict dietary requirements. That allows us to drive a lot more sales.” 

When it comes to the business model, Andersen says the team has spent the past 11 years navigating the ups and downs of the economy and creating a recession-resistant concept, which is why the brand has continued to grow despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, such as labor shortages

“It is a relatively easy restaurant to operate — you don’t need a big footprint or a lot of employees,” Andersen said. “Bringing the consumer offering and the business model together makes the brand highly desirable to franchisees.”

So, what are some of the lessons Andersen has learned about successfully growing an emerging franchise brand?

“It's no surprise that it is about business planning and executing, but it's also about people,” said Andersen. “If you want to be a world-class brand, you need a world-class team. On the franchise side, it is the same thing. Who are the people that you are getting into business with? It shouldn’t just be about restaurant experience; franchisees should have passion for our food and customer experience. The third factor is financial acumen. You need to understand what drives the brand financially. Those three factors are the key to emerging brand success.” 

Looking ahead, Andersen says the team is confident that The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill can be a 500-unit chain by the end of 2027. 

“In the end, it is all about creating value for the customer,” he said. “That is critically important, especially today when prices are rising, and people are more careful about where they spend their money. We want to make customers happy about spending money with us, and that is what allows a brand to thrive in any economic environment.”