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Can Naf Naf's success be repeated?

Can Naf Naf's success be repeated?
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  • Can Naf Naf's success be repeated?

    Post #1 - August 20th, 2018, 6:25 am
    Post #1 - August 20th, 2018, 6:25 am Post #1 - August 20th, 2018, 6:25 am
    Two of the chain's former execs look to grow a local barbecue chain and start a chain of authentic taquerias, looking to be the ‘Lettuce Entertain You of fast-casual restaurants.'

    http://www.chicagobusiness.com/restaura ... e-repeated

    FYI - If the link blocks you, Google search the thread title and you'll get behind Crain's paywall.
    Hors D'oeuvre: A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.
    - Jack Benny
  • Post #2 - August 20th, 2018, 8:16 am
    Post #2 - August 20th, 2018, 8:16 am Post #2 - August 20th, 2018, 8:16 am
    So that's what the niche is called now...fast/casual? What I utilize these places for now, in a busy, busy world, is something logistically close & relatively healthy I can pick up quick-like during the day for the family, at around ten bucks a head. More often than not, we're all eating at different times at night so it's there for them in the fridge when they get home. And unfortunately, we don't have time during the week to sit down together.

    I always thought Naf Naf OK, a step better than Roti Med Grill but not remotely close to Pita Inn, the gold standard in my book. They haven't lost the ethnicity as of yet. But they only have, what, 4 stores?
  • Post #3 - August 20th, 2018, 8:47 am
    Post #3 - August 20th, 2018, 8:47 am Post #3 - August 20th, 2018, 8:47 am
    jnm123 wrote:I always thought Naf Naf OK, a step better than Roti Med Grill but not remotely close to Pita Inn, the gold standard in my book. They haven't lost the ethnicity as of yet. But they only have, what, 4 stores?

    Five = http://www.pita-inn.com/locations
    Hors D'oeuvre: A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.
    - Jack Benny
  • Post #4 - August 20th, 2018, 11:12 am
    Post #4 - August 20th, 2018, 11:12 am Post #4 - August 20th, 2018, 11:12 am
    jnm123 wrote:I always thought Naf Naf OK, a step better than Roti Med Grill but not remotely close to Pita Inn, the gold standard in my book. They haven't lost the ethnicity as of yet. But they only have, what, 4 stores?


    Pita Inn wins on price (Naf Naf has steadily increased price points) but it's not exactly gold standard on quality any more. The rest of the market has caught up. I was at Maoz recently (a Dutch chain with only at a couple of food courts in the area) and thought their execution was excellent. Wonderful falafel and shawarma.
  • Post #5 - August 20th, 2018, 2:00 pm
    Post #5 - August 20th, 2018, 2:00 pm Post #5 - August 20th, 2018, 2:00 pm
    I still prefer Pita Inn's falafel, but even they have crept up significantly in price -- 15 years ago, a falafel sandwich, small hummos and a (non-refillable) coke was $4.01 at the original location.

    Naf Naf wins on the condiments/toppings: a bevy of sauces and vegetables that add a lot of flavor and crunch, versus the iceberg and hothouse tomatoes PI.

    Roti never seemed to gel with me. I think they try too hard to whitewash the ethnicity of their food, making it "Mediterranean" instead of middle-eastern. They're a classic example of a vanguard getting exceeded by the second-to-market. They're hardly failing, but there's nothing cool about them.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #6 - August 20th, 2018, 5:50 pm
    Post #6 - August 20th, 2018, 5:50 pm Post #6 - August 20th, 2018, 5:50 pm
    I ate twice at Roti, flavorless and limp is the best I can say.
    Added peeve, if the name of your restaurant is a a food item, it should be mandatory to sell that food item. They do not sell roti at Roti.
  • Post #7 - August 21st, 2018, 7:59 am
    Post #7 - August 21st, 2018, 7:59 am Post #7 - August 21st, 2018, 7:59 am
    jnm123 wrote:So that's what the niche is called now...fast/casual?


    I don't know about "now," but fast-casual has been a term for at least a decade now. I think places like Chipotle and Panera popularized the concept the most.
  • Post #8 - August 21st, 2018, 8:22 am
    Post #8 - August 21st, 2018, 8:22 am Post #8 - August 21st, 2018, 8:22 am
    I'm a bit nervous about them taking Blackwood big, since it's been a staple of my lunchtime routine since the day they opened. Can they keep the quality of ingredients and freshness as they scale up? I guess we are about to find out.
  • Post #9 - August 21st, 2018, 9:56 am
    Post #9 - August 21st, 2018, 9:56 am Post #9 - August 21st, 2018, 9:56 am
    Binko wrote:
    jnm123 wrote:So that's what the niche is called now...fast/casual?


    I don't know about "now," but fast-casual has been a term for at least a decade now. I think places like Chipotle and Panera popularized the concept the most.


    It has its own industry niche: https://www.fastcasual.com/
  • Post #10 - August 21st, 2018, 1:17 pm
    Post #10 - August 21st, 2018, 1:17 pm Post #10 - August 21st, 2018, 1:17 pm
    spinynorman99 wrote:
    Binko wrote:
    jnm123 wrote:So that's what the niche is called now...fast/casual?


    I don't know about "now," but fast-casual has been a term for at least a decade now. I think places like Chipotle and Panera popularized the concept the most.


    It has its own industry niche: https://www.fastcasual.com/


    Oh, indeed, and it has for a while. That website (in referring to fast casual restaurants) goes back as far as 2004 (and was registered in 2000).
  • Post #11 - October 1st, 2018, 10:56 am
    Post #11 - October 1st, 2018, 10:56 am Post #11 - October 1st, 2018, 10:56 am
    Octarine wrote:I ate twice at Roti, flavorless and limp is the best I can say.
    Added peeve, if the name of your restaurant is a a food item, it should be mandatory to sell that food item. They do not sell roti at Roti.

    What about Panda Express? :D

    =R=
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    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

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  • Post #12 - October 1st, 2018, 11:52 am
    Post #12 - October 1st, 2018, 11:52 am Post #12 - October 1st, 2018, 11:52 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:What about Panda Express? :D
    =R=


    I stopped going after they switched to panda surimi.
  • Post #13 - October 3rd, 2018, 12:55 pm
    Post #13 - October 3rd, 2018, 12:55 pm Post #13 - October 3rd, 2018, 12:55 pm
    Agreed, spinynorman--the only good panda is stir-fried, with bamboo shoots.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #14 - October 6th, 2018, 5:39 pm
    Post #14 - October 6th, 2018, 5:39 pm Post #14 - October 6th, 2018, 5:39 pm
    I detest these mediocre Middle Eastern concepts. bleech.
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #15 - October 30th, 2018, 9:13 pm
    Post #15 - October 30th, 2018, 9:13 pm Post #15 - October 30th, 2018, 9:13 pm
    teatpuller wrote:I detest these mediocre Middle Eastern concepts. bleech.


    Even more so when the food is a pale imitation of the real thing you'd eat in the Middle East. Without relatively fresh pita and hummus that has tahini flavor, or the plentiful condiments (peppers, onions, eggplants, tomato etc.) you might as well be eating gyros.

    The only "fast casual" restaurant that remotely tastes right to me is Crave Kabob (Madison and Ashland) or Mizrahi Grill on a good day. And neither are chains.
  • Post #16 - October 31st, 2018, 6:01 am
    Post #16 - October 31st, 2018, 6:01 am Post #16 - October 31st, 2018, 6:01 am
    teatpuller wrote:I detest these mediocre Middle Eastern concepts. bleech.


    I disagree. All I want for lunch is something quick and reasonably tasty. Is Naf Naf authentic Mediterranean? Doesn’t matter to me - it satisfies my lunch needs.

    I am often eating in neighborhoods that I am unfamiliar with and don’t want to take the time to learn. A known concept is exactly what I am looking for.
  • Post #17 - October 31st, 2018, 6:35 am
    Post #17 - October 31st, 2018, 6:35 am Post #17 - October 31st, 2018, 6:35 am
    IMHO, the main issue is that we're (and I mean many of us LTHers and folks like us) hobbled by questions of "authenticity". It doesn't matter how it tastes in terms of whether we enjoy eating it or not, but whether or not it's "the real thing."

    :(

    I just wandered through a discussion on the New York Times food page regarding an instant ramen recipe that used butter and slices of American cheese. Many people were horrified and refused to even consider making it because it so violated their ramen principles. Then it turned out that Southern California Korean-Americans have long ago instituted precisely this recipe as one of their stalwarts for feeding the kids after school. It's their "peanut butter and jelly sandwich." Can't get more authentic than that. Then, it turns out that the folks who tried the recipe said it tasted pretty damn good.

    Authentic, schmauthentic. If it tastes good and/or meets your functional needs, eat it!

    Geo

    https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016583-perfect-instant-ramen
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #18 - October 31st, 2018, 7:17 am
    Post #18 - October 31st, 2018, 7:17 am Post #18 - October 31st, 2018, 7:17 am
    sdrucker wrote:
    teatpuller wrote:I detest these mediocre Middle Eastern concepts. bleech.


    Even more so when the food is a pale imitation of the real thing you'd eat in the Middle East. Without relatively fresh pita and hummus that has tahini flavor, or the plentiful condiments (peppers, onions, eggplants, tomato etc.) you might as well be eating gyros.

    I have to push back on a couple of the chains:
    1) Naf Naf's pita is fresh, they bake it in house. Yeah, they then put it in a styrofoam cooler, but that's still fresh. I'm not the biggest fan of their falafel or hummos, but the variety of sauces and veggies makes it a very tasty sandwich.
    2) It may be from long exposure, but I can't find anyone's falafel or hummos that beats Pita Inn.
    Disclaimer: The closest I've been to the middle east was Santorini. The Gyros I had there (pork and chicken -- if it's beef or lamb it's called Doner) wasn't anything special at all flavor wise, but it was nicely crispy/roasty which a lot of places just don't achieve if they're not regularly serving off the spit.

    Now, if I were to try to create an ethnic fast-casual concept, I think I'd go for Indo-Pak: something kabob-ish (tandoori, tikka) on a naan wrap, chutneys, salad and curd (yogurt).
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #19 - October 31st, 2018, 9:22 am
    Post #19 - October 31st, 2018, 9:22 am Post #19 - October 31st, 2018, 9:22 am
    Geo wrote: I just wandered through a discussion on the New York Times food page regarding an instant ramen recipe that used butter and slices of American cheese. Many people were horrified and refused to even consider making it because it so violated their ramen principles.


    Oh, man, Geo, I read the original 2014 recipe this came from and it transformed the way I thought about instant ramen. The American cheese is essential. I make it all the time and I've converted many skeptics. It's great for breakfast.
  • Post #20 - October 31st, 2018, 10:34 am
    Post #20 - October 31st, 2018, 10:34 am Post #20 - October 31st, 2018, 10:34 am
    I gotta try it, Lucky. But I'm going to see if I can first find some decent noodles. Maybe I'll order some off Amazon--there's no Asian market w/in reach of me here.

    Tnx for the recommendation--I can easily imagine it for brekkers.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #21 - December 24th, 2018, 9:46 am
    Post #21 - December 24th, 2018, 9:46 am Post #21 - December 24th, 2018, 9:46 am
    JoelF wrote:Now, if I were to try to create an ethnic fast-casual concept, I think I'd go for Indo-Pak: something kabob-ish (tandoori, tikka) on a naan wrap, chutneys, salad and curd (yogurt).


    That concept appeared over a decade ago at Chutney Joe's, near the original Epic Burger. I referred to it as Indian Chipotle and it was very good - at first. It either sold or something happened mid-stream because quality fell off. Bombay Wraps has taken up the mantle and while it's better than nothing, it's not great.
  • Post #22 - December 24th, 2018, 10:15 am
    Post #22 - December 24th, 2018, 10:15 am Post #22 - December 24th, 2018, 10:15 am
    I've also thought that a Indo-Pak FF should flourish. It's a polarizing cuisine. Lots of folks are scared. Those that love it crave it. Even then, the subset of the ppl that love it might not like a lot of heat. I've always thought that a takeout counter with a few formica eat in tables, that offered a veg and a non-veg thali (of sorts) each day would be fantastic (for me, anyway.)

    Like a more focused version of Hyderbad House or Ghareeb N, slinging out Indo Pak versions of Pita Inn Business Lunch Specials. I guess that was what Chutney Joe's was actually going for. I went there a few times and found it pretty vanilla, but, you have to try to appeal to the masses to survive.

    I think I'd try to offer mild and "FKN SPICY!" selections, but of course, some of the ppl who ask for spicy things will say it's too spicy, because for some reason, some humans think their tongues are the exact same as everyone else's. If something says "spicy," if you have to ask "how spicy," my eyes tend to roll. Sorry, but I can't friggin help it.

    Not sure I could put my money on the line for this concept. My guess is by the time the food was dumbed down enough for the customer volume to keep a steady pace, I wouldn't want to eat at my own place anymore.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #23 - December 24th, 2018, 10:25 am
    Post #23 - December 24th, 2018, 10:25 am Post #23 - December 24th, 2018, 10:25 am
    There's a chain I visited in Stockholm, Hurry Curry, that had the concept pretty well developed. You won't find goat on the menu but the "gateway" Indian dishes like tikka masala, samosas, dals appeal to a fairly broad spectrum of customers. My Wisconsin in-laws who deemed sushi and Indian too exotic for them before they even tried it became fans pretty quickly once they took the plunge.
  • Post #24 - May 2nd, 2019, 12:45 pm
    Post #24 - May 2nd, 2019, 12:45 pm Post #24 - May 2nd, 2019, 12:45 pm
    Naf Naf Grill has signed its first franchisee via a 10-unit area development deal with Indianapolis based early-stage investment company, 316 Investments, through its affiliate Fan the Flame Llc. Locations will open across central Indiana in Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lafayette, Fort Wayne and beyond, according to a company press release.

    https://www.fastcasual.com/news/naf-naf ... hise-deal/
    Hors D'oeuvre: A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.
    - Jack Benny
  • Post #25 - May 2nd, 2019, 1:01 pm
    Post #25 - May 2nd, 2019, 1:01 pm Post #25 - May 2nd, 2019, 1:01 pm
    Dave148 wrote:
    Naf Naf Grill has signed its first franchisee via a 10-unit area development deal with Indianapolis based early-stage investment company, 316 Investments, through its affiliate Fan the Flame Llc. Locations will open across central Indiana in Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lafayette, Fort Wayne and beyond, according to a company press release.

    https://www.fastcasual.com/news/naf-naf ... hise-deal/


    I hope they can keep customers after the initial novelty wears off. The several locations that I have visited in the past year have clearly exhibited signs of decline. Food quality has slipped, service has been slow and sloppy (at more than one location) and they still have inconsistent menu offerings at different locations. That might have made some sense as they were starting out and feeling out the market, but it's not especially customer friendly.
  • Post #26 - May 2nd, 2019, 1:23 pm
    Post #26 - May 2nd, 2019, 1:23 pm Post #26 - May 2nd, 2019, 1:23 pm
    Operating as Venture Kitchen, Sloan and Wiener last month took a minority stake and managing partner position in Blackwood BBQ, a three-unit Chicago-based purveyor of 15-hour-smoked beef brisket, chicken and pulled pork. And they soon plan to open Tijuana taco-and-cemita restaurant Invicto in Naperville, the first of what they hope will be dozens of follow-ons.

    Might the names Blackwood BBQ and Invicto be the future names?
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat

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