Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill's urban renewal

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill makes a move to the city.

In designing its first urban prototype, Denver-based Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill broke out of its suburban mold to inject the energy and rhythm of the city into its new downtown store. “The location is unique because it’s on Denver’s pedestrian mall,” says Bob Bafundo, president of the 24-unit fast casual. “Elements like the patio lights strung across the ceiling and the graffiti wall that captures the menu’s ingredients were inspired by the city.” Garbanzo’s salute to Colorado’s outdoorsy culture at the new unit is in the form of backyard touches, such as patio chairs and tables and wooden fencing bordering the dining room.

Some back-of-house functions were moved up front to try and attract the high volume of pedestrian traffic. Staff mixes dough and bakes pita breads in full view, and cooks grill chicken, steak and mushrooms and make falafel in front of guests. This freed up space in the kitchen to expand Garbanzo’s catering business. “Research revealed a high-density commercial and residential population downtown, and this dedicated space will improve our overall sales capability,” says Bafundo.

Skip-the-line advance ordering and a separate pickup window ease peak demand between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Perhaps insight comes from Panera Bread, which was founded as St. Louis Bread Company by Ken Rosenthal, Garbanzo’s cofounder.) Customers now can pick up multiple orders with this service—a feature that has increased order size and sales volume during lunch.

Concept: Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill’s city unit
Location: Denver
Footprint: 2,300 square feet
Number of seats: 88 indoors; 24 on sidewalk
Key features: Lightweight, colorful aluminum chairs; upgraded booths; green, red and yellow color scheme inspired by Mediterranean flavors; larger grab-and-go menu and merchandiser; pickup window; sidewalk-cafe seating

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