This California Salad Chain Is Bringing Its Cheap Local Food To New York City

On the patio of the Tender Greens restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in L.A., tall white towers sprout ingredients for the daily special–kale, chard, strawberries, and whatever else is in season. The restaurant, part of a chain throughout the state, is a typical example of fresh, local-obsessed California cuisine. Now the chain plans to expand to Manhattan, and up and down the East Coast.

Though New York City already has a slew of salad-focused, fast casual restaurants–Sweetgreen, Chopt, Dig Inn–Tender Greens is hoping to offer something slightly different.

First, each restaurant has a fine dining chef, giving it flexibility to change the menu every day based on supply, weather, and whim. The chain also thinks it can offer higher-quality ingredients than some competitors. “We built the brand around high-end products,” says co-founder Erik Oberholtzer, sourced locally.

They probably won’t, however, grow food on-site, as they have in California. “At $500 a square foot in Manhattan, you need every last inch of space,” says Oberholtzer. “Secondly, the weather is challenging in New York. We’re not going to necessarily have the patio real estate that we have here in California.”

After a high-end, New York-based restaurant group, Union Square Hospitality Group, invested in the chain last year, Tender Greens started making plans to open in Manhattan, beginning next year. They plan on 10 to 12 locations in New York City, and to expand over the next few years from D.C. to Boston.