Restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) is spreading its New York City-based wings and has invested in Tender Greens, an up-and-coming California chain. According to a press release, Tender Greens — which serves a menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches — currently has 22 locations across California. The chain's co-founder Erik Oberholtzer explains to the New York Times that while customers line up to order in similar fashion as they would at Chipotle, each kitchen is "overseen by a trained executive chef." The chain also makes use of local farms and produce. USGH has made a "significant minority investment" in the restaurant group and Meyer will join Tender Greens' board of directors.
This is the first time USHG is making an investment of this kind (though Meyer has personally invested in Washington, D.C-based salad chain Sweetgreen). Typically Meyer and his team have focused solely on developing and expanding concepts created in-house. This includes the company's mega-successful burger chain Shack Shack, which the company took public earlier this year. Meyer explains why he decided to invest in an existing brand: "Every now and then, I'll visit a restaurant and love the idea—the food, the people, the culture — so much that I wish I'd thought of it myself. That's exactly what happened with Tender Greens."
While "neither company will discuss the price tag" of the deal, it apparently gave Tender Greens enough capital to "help repay its earlier backers" and to put plans into motion to expand nationally. The chain is considering branching out to Austin, Chicago, and New York City.