Dish Society is celebrating its 10th anniversary in Houston by expanding into Austin. The fast-casual cafe from Five 12 Restaurant Concepts opened a new Austin location in December, marking its first store outside of Houston, and its fifth overall. The group is also behind Daily Gather, a full-service restaurant focused on fresh, seasonal dining, which opened in Houston in 2022.
Five 12 founder and CEO Aaron Lyons is an Austin native; after graduating from the University of Texas, he traveled the country as a consultant with Deloitte and noticed a lack of options for quick, affordable, healthy meals. Creating Dish Society was his way of filling in that whitespace.
After earning his MBA and developing the business plan for what would become his first restaurant, Lyons opened Dish Society in Houston in 2014, teaming up with co-owner and COO Trent Patterson, whose resume includes opening 40 Chick-fil-A units nationwide. The duo eventually brought on Houston chef Brandi Key to serve as culinary director for all of the group’s concepts.
“It’s kind of surreal to come full circle,” Lyons said. “Being able to share Dish Society with my family and friends is pretty cool. Quite a few people on our team are from Austin or went to UT and also have friends and family they’re excited to share the brand with. But starting in a new market with a concept that’s not a first draft is also a nice feeling. Since we’ve been doing this for almost 10 years, we have the opportunity to make a pretty good impression.”
Dish Society’s newest location is located in the Mueller development: a master-planned urban community in east-central Austin spanning 3,600 square feet. Local firm Chioco Design outfitted the space with airy, modern aesthetics, including warm wood tones, lush greenery and tall storefront windows that let in natural light.
The restaurant seats 80 guests inside and an additional 80 on the covered patio. There’s also a walkup window for coffee and breakfast tacos.
Dish Society serves brunch, lunch, and dinner daily, and also offers coffees, fresh juices, beers, wines, cocktails, and mocktails. Key’s menus shift with the seasons and feature modern takes on American classics, with dishes like ranch-style eggs, smoked salmon avocado toast, seasonal grain bowls, salads, sandwiches, Gulf shrimp and smoked gouda grits, and a barbecue brisket-loaded sweet potato. The farmer’s plate includes the diner’s choice of protein — chicken, shrimp, citrus salmon, or chopped brisket — plus two sides.
Five 12 sources more than 75 percent of its ingredients from Texas farmers, ranchers and purveyors, and the Austin expansion has increased the group’s partner list, with a handful of new vendors providing local greens, tortillas, ice cream, and hot sauce.
Now ten years in with multiple stores under its umbrella, Five 12 Restaurant Concepts is still looking to the future. The sixth Dish Society store will open inside Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport later this year. Lyons said the group wants to continue expanding its brands within its current markets of Houston and Austin, as well as into new markets like Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio before looking out of state.
When evaluating new locations, Lyons has a few criteria that impact the decision-making process.
“We target 3,500 to 4,000 square foot spaces with large patios that are in high-traffic, visible areas and within developments with a like-minded nearby tenant mix that attracts our target customer, while also providing a large opportunity for off-premises and catering,” he said. “We like areas where there is strong demand for all three dayparts, and [where] we can attract a large weekend brunch crowd.”
The company’s current concepts are meant to scale, and that growth mentality will drive anything else they might create in the future.
“I won’t create a concept unless I believe it’s fit to scale and has synergies with existing concepts,” Lyons said. “I just don’t have a ton of energy for creating one-off concepts.”