This is George Tenedios, the CEO of Fresh&Co (pictured right), and Brad Grossman, the executive chef at Fresh&Co (pictured left). These men are two of the driving forces behind the fast casual concept that focuses on providing New Yorkers with chef-inspired organic food. Although this restaurant is already extremely well-known in NYC with 18 locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, Fresh&Co was created only 8 years ago, in 2010, as a branch of Cafe Metro. George’s father, Steve Tenedios, founded Cafe Metro in 1982, after moving from Midwest Ohio to Brooklyn to work with his brother-in-law making doughnuts. However, as a young boy who emigrated to the U.S. from a small Greek island at age 5 and then grew up in the food industry working as a bus boy and a server at a local restaurant, he always dreamed of owning his own business. So when he realized that there wasn’t much demand for doughnuts at that time, he quit and began working with a deli group for a few years before starting his own business. George now carries on his father’s legacy with their locally-sourced food concept that has made this family business a staple of the NYC food industry.
Cafe Metro was created to be a more traditional, classic New York style deli. However, in 2010, Steve, George, Brad and their team started recognizing that food trends were changing and that there was a lapse in the market for healthy, local, clean, organic food. They were finding that as the millennial population grew in NY, more consumers were becoming aware of the different food options available to them and were becoming more conscious about what they were putting into their bodies. It was a whole new demographic of customers whose needs were not being met. There were a handful of lunch concepts that were opening but they felt that there was a lack of high-quality dining where you could get a clean breakfast, a filling lunch and a satisfying dinner without comprising on ingredients. So they set out to be the solution. Brad, who has been with their team since day 1 and helped open the first Cafe Metro in 1982, became the mastermind behind Fresh&Co’s core menu and began creating recipes that included fresh vegetables, healthy dressings and popular food item like quinoa. They opened their first location, 729 Broadway, in 2010 and three days before the grand opening, decided to remove the pasta station they originally planned to be part of the store and replaced it with a quinoa bar. It was a risky move given the time crunch and the fact that quinoa bar had never been done in a fast casual setting anywhere in New York before. But it paid off. Their customers loved it, and after that the Fresh&Co concept took off.
Although it’s still under the same management umbrella of Cafe Metro, Fresh&Co now runs as it’s own entity, with a unique brand, it’s own managing team, operations and menu. And the menu has changed a lot since they first started, but one major focus that hasn’t changed is continuing to use local food as much as possible. Most of the produce that they use in their stores comes from Satur Farms on Long Island because it’s extremely important to them to support their local community and cut their carbon footprint with sustainable farming practices that these vendors have in place. Local vendors also give them a lot of quality control and allow George and his team to ensure that their customers receive high-quality, consistent produce all year round. They keep a close relationship with their partners, visiting Satur Farms and Latham Farms (another local partner) a couple times a year to meet with the farmers, check out the operations and go over the production schedule. Their team has become so invested in sourcing local food that Fresh&Co purchased their own farm about two years ago on Long Island, which employs all local Long Island residents. The farm helps them to understand how different items are grown and the practices that need to be used to keep food clean and sustainable. However, Fresh&Co farms only generates about 25% of all the produce that the stores use, which is why they’ve established and developed their relationships with their local farmers who can contribute to the demand. Fresh&Co’s commitment to these farmers creates a wholesome and trusting relationship that benefits both parties. As food trends grow, so does Fresh&Co’s business and in turn, so does the local vendors’ business.
For George and Brad though, keeping up with the ever-changing food trends is proving to be the toughest part of the business. When Fresh&Co was first created, food trend patterns happened differently, new ideas seeped into the industry slowly. But now consumers are a lot more informed about their food and have opinions on it, which makes it harder to stay on top of what’s popular. However, it’s not a bad thing, George says, it “keeps them on their toes” and he, Brad and the rest of their team are always doing their research to see what’s in demand and make sure they’re on top of it. Their goal is always to provide the best possible service to the customer so whether that means using the freshest ingredients in their soup or creating a new menu item based off of a popular food, they’ll make it happen.
Their dedication to the customer, who they say is the reason why Fresh&Co exists, and their desire to continue to supply each customer with a healthy, authentic, sustainable meal is what sets Fresh&Co apart from other fast casual restaurants. Their team set out to create a concept that filled a hole they saw in the market and by doing so, created a mission-driven business that all food vendors can learn from.