With the backing of a beverage magnate, Anthony Leone is expanding his healthy fast-food franchise into New Jersey as the first step in a national campaign.
Leone’s Energy Kitchen already has seven locations in New York, as well as shops in Hoboken and Florida, and is expecting to open 40 more restaurants in the next two years. The restaurant offers burgers and fries, but everything is grilled, baked or steamed, instead of fried, and nothing on the menu contains more than 500 calories.
“I’ve always been into athletics and working out, and it was basically developed out of frustration,” Leone said. “I saw the marketplace there, and I tried to eat right, and I found it very difficult to eat correctly.”
Of the 40 new locations, 25 are expected to be in New Jersey, with franchisee Anthony Santarelli aiming to open a Montvale location by the end of 2011.
Leone calls New Jersey the perfect location for expansion, with the right demographics and right franchising partners.
“The demographics in New Jersey are incredible — they’re really our customer,” Leone said, as his concept is more marketable to affluent, educated people “who know the benefit of eating right.”
The chain, which opened its first shop in Manhattan in 2003, was bought into four years ago by Michael Repole, co-founder of Glacéau, which makes Vitamin Water and was purchased by Coca-Cola. Leone said Repole’s investment and insight have allowed the company to build the right infrastructure for franchising, as well as have the financial stability to think big.
New Jersey locations being scouted include Princeton, Red Bank and Summit, as well as Bergen County. But Leone will have competition in the northern region of the state.
Healthy for Life Grill is another healthy fast-food startup, with locations in Hoboken and Union, looking to franchise.
Bill Nelson, regional developer for Franchise Development Group, is working with Healthy for Life Grill, and said the company is rolling out its franchise marketing plan this month. Nelson said the chain wants to gain traction in New Jersey and New York before expanding elsewhere on the eastern seaboard.
“I certainly don’t think it’s a niche that will be dominated by one provider,” Nelson said. “Once people have the opportunity to experience places like Healthy for Life … (it will) drive more demand for that quality and that value and that healthfulness.”
Nelson pointed to the success of the frozen yogurt market as a health-oriented niche market that can support multiple franchises.