GRK Fresh Greek
New York restaurant GRK Fresh Greek (GRK) is one to watch in 2015, named one of the Top 100 Movers and Shakers in the fast-casual market segment by Fastcasual.com. Sarah Lockyer, editor in chief of National Restaurant News, chose GRK Fresh Greek as one of 2014’s Breakout Brands’ ten hot, emerging restaurant concepts generating excitement in the industry.
The chain’s slogan; “Fresh Flavors, Ancient Secrets,” is a nod to GRK’s take on authentic Greek cuisine, made fresh daily using centuries-old preparation, top-notch imported ingredients and locally purveyed meats and veggies.
“The Mediterranean diet has become increasingly popular throughout the U.S., along with Greek yogurt,” says Chris Potter, chief operating officer of GRK. “We have also seen an upswing in the fast-causal restaurant sector. People are looking for an elevated experience –a step above fast food- a healthier meal within a time constraint.”
A fresh take on a fast bite
GRK is doing just that, delivering the best flavors of Greece, wrapped up in the traditional “gyro,” or “yeero,” a term the chain has coined. Lamb and beef, chicken, pork or portabella – the customer picks their high-quality protein. Then the thinly-sliced meat that’s been marinated in Greek yogurt, Greek extra-virgin olive oil and aromatic spices is served in a warm house-baked pita or on a plate with a side such as Greek or lentil salad, brown rice or Aegean slaw; a red and green cabbage blend with carrots, onions and fresh herbs dressed in lemon vinaigrette.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding healthier, higher-quality fresh foods,” measures Potter. “These demands are changing the restaurant and the food industry. GRK offers a unique alternative, combining the best products of Greece with the country’s cultural and culinary standards. It’s not just another twist on a burger or a taco.”
GRK’s new take on classic Greek food brings fresh flavors from founder George Nikas’ homeland. “Nikas who divides his time between New York City and Greece is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years’ experience in the food processing industry,” tells Potter.
The gyro, which is as common in Greece as the cheeseburger is in the U.S., was Nikas inspiration for the GRK concept. “Nikas’s factory in Greece is the No. 1 producer of gyros, also selling to other parts of Europe,” recounts Potter. “Nikas saw the Turkish doner and Middle Eastern shwarma, but nothing in the U.S. market like the Greek-style gyro, a much cleaner product. Unlike its contenders, the Greek gyro is made of natural meats with no fillers, additives or preservatives. The only things added to the mix being Greek extra virgin olive oil, Greek yogurt and spices making it a very healthy, clean product – something more consumers are after.”
Gyrating a global concept
With the idea in mind, Nikas set out to create GRK and with the help of a top NYC branding company, the yeero became a reality in September 2012. “We launched our first store that fall in downtown NYC and have gone onto Washington, D.C. and Midtown across from Grand Central Station here in New York,” shares Potter. “We are currently working on Las Vegas and additional locations in New York coming in 2015 along with franchise opportunities as far as Dubai.”
GRK now employs 126 people across locations and the company even has its own support factory in New Jersey. “The factory is a separate company, although it specifically supports us nationally,” says Potter. “They’ve a USDA inspector and plant manager on site and it allows us more quality control within our supply chain.”
The lighter side of fast-casual
All along, Potter says GRK has tried to funnel its menu items into the healthier side of the fast-casual niche, standing out from burger joints and burritos. “All of our food is made to order,” assures Potter. “It’s not sitting in a hot pan or premade days in advance. From the feta cheese to the olive oil, the tomatoes to the Tzatziki – we don’t skimp on the quality of our ingredients.”
Customers can walk-in to GRK, order a customized meal and enjoy it while feeling good about what’s going into it. “We’ve draw all kinds of customers, particularly ones who appreciate this notion, everyone from students to business professionals and politicians. Our former mayor Bloomberg is a fan and has visited,” notes Potter.
“Our goal over the next year is to continue to focus on development, our branding and adding more nutritional information to our menus for our customers,” adds Potter. From Manhattan to the Middle East and beyond, GRK Fresh Greek’s take on traditional cooking meets fast-casual setting is turning heads and pleasing hungry customers.