In 2005 when Einat Admony opened Taïm, a falafel and fast-casual spot was a hardly a popular choice for a fine-dining chef. A lot has changed since then.
Although the growth of Taïm has been slow — Admony didn’t open the second location until 2012 — she hopes to capitalize on the Mediterranean food moment the industry is having. With the backing and guidance from a group of investors and advisers, many of whom have spent time at Chipotle, Admony plans to open three new outposts this year with larger ambitions in the works. Admony owns and operates Taïm with her husband, Stéfan Nafziger.
Investors had courted Admony through the years. “Money, I can't say it was not a problem, but for Taïm, people love it so much we've always had offers from people to invest,” she said.
What the restauranteur really needed was brains, ability, and resources.
Phil Petrilli, who spent over a decade with Chipotle as a regional manager, fit the description. He brought together a group of experienced fast-casual veterans to support and finance Taïm’s growth. The financial backers aren't part of an official firm, according to Petrilli, but have invested in other restaurant brands before.
Taïm’s plan is to open three more locations in New York this year and another one or two in another market, such as D.C., in the next 12 to 18 months. The next Taïm will be in at the Midtown Urban Spaces, a food hall that is expected to open in March.
Although Petrilli declined to share the specific investment, he did say “we invested enough capital to go out and bring on some great talent and then build a few more restaurants together,” he said by email.
Admony already sees a difference in how Taïm operates. Thanks to Petrilli and his team’s help, she’s lowered the cost of food and payroll. And Petrilli’s team brought in Bethany Strong, who led Northeast Operations for both Chipotle and Le Pain Quotidien, as their director of operations. It’s been the most profitable year so far for Taïm, Admony said. Salads, platters, and pita sandwiches are the core of the menu at Taïm with prices ranging from $8 to $12.
The Israeli chef and her husband also operate two fine-dining restaurants, Bar Bolonat, Balaboosta, in New York.
Admony’s only concern with expanding Taïm now is that she might have waited too long. Mediterranean and falafel fast-casual spots have exploded in the past few years. The Mediterranean fast-casual chain Cava has an outpost a block away from Taïm’s second location in SoHo. And another New York-based Falafel restaurant, Mamoun’s, will open its 10th location this month.
“I don't know, for a second I thought it's a little bit late, but I think the food speaks for itself,” Admony said.
Petrilli isn’t worried. “It’s never about one single element, like who the chef is, or from where they source their ingredients, or how hip their design is,” he said.
“It’s always about how well you marry amazingly delicious food, with being able to service guests lightning fast, in our fast-casual world, and ultimately being able to do it all at a price not much above, if at all, what traditional QSR concepts charge. Taïm delivers on all of those fronts.”
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