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Emerging Brands

How a snack-sized offering is helping Dill & Parsley grow

Created by accident, the Mediterranean fast casual’s “minibowls” are now drawing mega sales.
Photograph courtesy of Dill & Parsley

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The concept: Dill & Parsley

The details: A four-unit Mediterranean fast-casual concept specializing in Turkish cuisine with a better-for-you focus. Dill & Parsley’s menu includes customizable bowls, wraps, pita pockets and snack-sized “minibowls.” Everything, including dressings and sides such as hummus, babaganoush and a red lentil salad, are made in-house.

The backstory: The concept’s founder and CEO, Balahan Bobus, came to the U.S. from Turkey to attend college two decades ago. After a career in banking, he noticed around 2014 that quick, health-focused Mediterranean food was hard to find. Now, of course, Mediterranean fast casuals are booming, with concepts such as Roti Modern Mediterranean and The Simple Greek among the country’s fastest-growing emerging brands. And Dill & Parsley is finding its niche, with an emphasis on Turkish cuisine tailored to the American palate. The first store opened in 2015, with the fifth slated to debut next month. Units range from about 1,600 to 1,900 square feet. The chain’s next step is to grow outside of Manhattan.

Why it’s worth watching: Dill & Parsley has a surprise hit with its snack-sized bowls, which customers are ordering during shoulder periods as well as throughout the day. Consumers are now snacking frequently, and 36% of younger diners say they’re snacking on healthier food than they were a couple of years ago, according to Technomic’s recent Snacking Consumer Trend Report.

bowl, pita sandwich and mini bowl

Photograph courtesy of Dill & Parsley

HERE ARE FIVE GROWTH-MINDED QUESTIONS WITH BALAHAN BOBUS, DILL & PARSLEY'S FOUNDER AND CEO: 

  1. How does Dill & Parsley set itself apart among other Mediterranean fast-casual concepts?

I wanted to take a really healthy version of Mediterranean food, combined with all of the soul food side of it. There was no focus on the health aspects of what (Mediterranean cuisine) could offer. When we think about Mediterranean food, the first thing that comes to mind is shish kebab and shawarma, but there’s so much more to it than that. In our case, our mind is always at, “How can we make this healthier for out community? What else can we offer from our arsenal of Mediterranean dishes that will complement healthy choices?” What differentiates us is the ability to come in and grab a bowl you will feel good about and will complement just about any dietary need.

  1. How did your snack-sized bowls come to be?

They were developed by pure coincidence in 2016. I ordered a small bowl for testing, and customers started asking about. It didn’t do much in the first year. But now 10% of our bowls are snack-sized. The minibowl is 12 ounces versus 30 ounces for the standard bowl. I grab one about every day around 6 p.m. before I head home.

  1. You grew up eating many of these dishes in Turkey. How have you modified them for U.S. flavor preferences?

We try to adapt and adjust as much as possible. So when you eat them, it doesn’t create discomfort. We don’t overload on the garlic, so you can go back to the office. We’re keeping in mind local preferences. You can make hummus in a variety of different ways.

  1. Do you offer delivery?

Delivery has been a way of life for us from the beginning. We do a tremendous amount of delivery. Fifteen to 20% of sales are delivery. Business has been shifting that way. Delivery packaging is something I spent a lot of time on at the beginning. What works? What keeps the food warm? What ends up giving the better experience? That might be giving us a bit of an edge on our delivery volumes. We do the compartments in the bowls. It’s a simple solution. When you come in the store and you order the food, you get a single-compartment rectangular bowl. For delivery, we do three compartments and separate cold from hot.

  1. Where are you looking to grow?

The next round of stores we’re planning will be outside of the Manhattan business district. We’re expanding to more residential or nonbusiness areas. We’re looking at universities, shopping malls, New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island. I’m always assessing these options.

 

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