By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor
Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop first opened their doors in Beverly Hills in 2008, offering healthy, affordable menu options in a fast casual setting. Over the past eight years, Greenleaf has opened five locations in Los Angeles and Orange County, expanding beyond the salads offered when they first began. Greenleaf has been a leader in the fast casual movement and as they grow, so does the concept.
Jonathan Rollo, founder of Greenleaf, grew up in Pasadena where his mother, a self-taught cook, would always make simple, clean, fresh meals. Jonathan moved to Nashville, Tennessee for college at Vanderbilt University and then culinary school in Chicago. During his studies and living in the Midwest and Southern United States, Jonathan recognized his love for the Southern California cuisine he was raised on – fresh ingredients and lots of vegetables. After culinary school, Jonathan returned to Los Angeles where he worked for Patina, Pinot Hollywood and later ran the Hollywood Bowl catering. His experience with a fine-dining menu driven restaurant inspired him to do something new, different and unique. When he decided to go out on his own, he wanted to create a place that offered fresh, healthy food with a focus on salads.
The Beverly Hills location opened in 2008, just before the market crashed. But, Greenleaf survived as Jonathan saw a general shift in his clientele. People who typically went to fine dining restaurants started seeking out fast-casual dining. Greenleaf, with its focus on bringing in the best quality products, appealed to everyone, from busy moms to workers on a lunch break.
The concept of Greenleaf built itself over time and in 2010 the second location opened in Century City, with Costa Mesa quickly following in 2011 and South Coast opening in 2014. Beverly Hills and Century City are breakfast and lunch spots that cater primarily to a business clientele. Beverly Hills is open Monday through Saturday but Century City is open only during the work week and both open at 8am and close at 4pm. The idea of a fast casual breakfast or lunch or to-go orders makes sense for these locations as they are surrounded by office buildings. The two Orange County locations, whose clientele is more family driven, are both open seven days a week but do not open until the late morning (10:30am) and remain open for dinner until 8pm or 9pm during the week.
When Greenleaf’s fifth location opened in Hollywood in 2015, the concept shifted yet again to match the local market. Being located across the street from the Pantages Theater and located in a new condo complex with two fitness centers, the clientele in Hollywood is very active. Greenleaf opens at 10:30am daily and offers brunch on the weekends. It stays open until 10:30pm at night. While the core menu offers the salads and sandwiches that customers expect, the menu has expanded to offer entrees, including grilled chicken breast, flat iron steak, seared ahi tuna and salmon filet, and thin-crust pizzas served on a crisp whole wheat tortilla. Customers are also encouraged to adapt the menu to their liking with build-your-own salads and choices of sides with the entrees.
Where the Hollywood location has also diverted from the exclusively fast casual concept is that they have incorporated elements of full-service dining. As Jonathan explained, “The Hollywood location is a marriage of full service and fast casual.” At any of the locations, you can take food to go or sit at a table and eat-in. But, at the Hollywood location, once the food is ordered and you find a table, a server will provide the utensils, refill the water, deliver the food when it is ready and clear the tables when finished. Greenleaf Hollywood offers a large outdoor patio, as well as a full bar that is partially indoors and partially outdoors.
Cocktails and Wine
All of the Greenleaf locations have beer and wine licenses, as well as limited seating. But in Hollywood, the format is larger with the full bar in the center. At the bar, Greenleaf offers full service and orders are placed with the bartender. In addition, Greenleaf Hollywood has a full liquor license which, as Jonathan expressed, “offers something different and unique to our clients.” The full bar offers a drink menu that reflects the food menu with recipes using fresh, house-made ingredients. The drinks are quick to make but hand-crafted, fitting the same philosophy as the food.
When the first Greenleaf location opened, the idea of fast-casual did not exist. The idea was to offer quicker, more affordable food that was still high quality and not mass produced. Jonathan articulated that “It is not a race to the lowest price point; it is a race to a loyal customer. It is about an experience and you gain exceptionally loyal customers through exceptional service and quality at an affordable everyday price point.”
Greenleaf has succeeded in building a loyal customer base. Each location fits within its neighborhood and its customer base. They have customers that come back multiple times within a week who recognize the quality Greenleaf offers.
In addition to growing the menu offerings, Greenleaf also offers catering, setting up salad bars at events. It is developing from a fast-casual restaurant into a healthy lifestyle brand. Greenleaf is a new and still evolving concept, dedicated to pushing the envelope to give customers what they want. From fast casual to full service, we look forward to seeing what is next.