Honeygrow writes the program on how to bubble through the surface as an emerging concept. The mid-Atlantic (and beyond) group is potent with grabbing a devoted audience and positioning their brand on the foundation of all the touch points that excite diners. The hip factor of their food, setting, and ordering interface has made them the emerging restaurant brand to experience.
Honeygrow’s Chief Brand Officer Jen Denis credits Honeygrow’s success to “staying true to our scrappiness to maintain our momentum.” That healthy resiliency is evidenced in four areas that make Honeygrow ooze with prosperity.
Honeygrow’s CEO Justin Rosenberg created the original menu. Over the years, the menu has evolved with some subtle and bold refinements. Adding to the spirited feel of the food, Chef and Culinary Director David Katz, nods to his culinary roots with Moroccan flourishes and inspiration grounded in cuisines from all over the world.
“The diverse menu has many entry points for guests to explore,” explains Denis. The brevity of the menu is balanced with dynamic flavor combinations like brown rice, togarashi spiced turkey, green beans, red onions, sesame seeds or this season’s menu entry: whole wheat noodles, all-natural roast chicken, kale, chickpeas, red onion, coriander crunch, and roasted garlic tahini sauce.
Brand is the watchword of restaurant development. Honeygrow’s approach, says Denis, “was to create a brand that would stand out from other fast casuals— more than just a restaurant, more than a group; inspired by Apple, Google, and Starbucks, people who have defined their own category.” Fundamental to that original approach to branding, Honeygrow plays off of eating local, bringing transparency to life in the communities in which they serve.
The brand is defined by its sourcing practices
To maintain supply chain authenticity, Honeygrow vettes potential vendors and purveyors to unearth genuine intent to sourcing. One directive that enforces the parallel between brand and sourcing is the Sea to Table initiative with direct sourcing from fisherman practicing responsible and sustainable fishing.
"All of our shrimp is sustainably fished, not using commodity product which may be consistent, but not the best quality."
Knowing customers. Data is king
“We use a loyalty program to capture meaningful data about guests and fans,” asserts Denis. Data-forward operations are no longer an option for contemporary operators. Beyond menu analytics, culling data creates marketing opportunities by tracing purchasing habits, visit frequency, and flavor preferences. When data is king, information is as vital as is being devoted to the brand.
The initial contact when entering the restaurant is a sleek point of sale system, powered by Task Retail Technology. The step-through process offers the restaurant’s menu with as-suggested options, as well as, the ever important customizable benefit. Crisp icons for protein choices, for instance, make the customization process seamless and snappy. Want to stray from the menu? The ease of building a unique dish is never a bump for customers interacting with the system.
The spots offer antibiotic-free chicken, sustainably-harvested shrimp, all-natural beef, turkey, and non-GMO tofu. The veg-centric movement is serious and the entire page devoted to vegetable choices on Honeygrow’s customer-facing interface keeps the force strong with this one. The origins of the local vegetable supply are evidenced walking into the store. “Our produce is locally-based during seasonality,” offers Denis. For an honest take to keeping quality up when the season doesn’t quite match, Denis adds “In the northeast, in January, our strawberries are not coming locally.”
Rather than choice intoxication, Honeygrow keeps to the brand. Succinct options, guided by bowls of noodles, rice, and salads, the group keeps the menu defined with clarity and intent. Sauces, like spicy garlic, red coconut curry, and sweet soy five-spice keep chopsticks covered in big flavors that millennials demand. The solo approach to a dessert-esque dish, the honey bowl, is of a similar construct to the core menu; a base of fruit, choice of honey, and picks of toppings. Again, a differentiating turn for Honeygrow, the healthful nod keeps the nutritional vibe flowing.
Faithful to their beginnings, their social media marketing isn’t some elaborate logarithm with stacked hierarchical imperatives. Rather, the tone of their Instagram feels modern, whimsical, and very food focused.
“In 2012, there was no marketing budget. To maintain our grassroots approach of being real with authentic relationships, we communicated through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter with daily posts. Our Digital Content Curator works to ensure we are communicating and highlighting food, industry news, and user-generated content. We showcase people that have engaged with us,” said Denis.
Being connected to something bigger than just lunch
Imperative to the Gen X and Gen Y base is the connection to some higher calling. For employees and customers alike, a connection to the community is an authentic selling point that works for business, as well as, the community benefitting from the good mojo. Local sourcing is a solid start, but giving back makes for dynamic social media marketing material. “Giving back by giving to local nonprofits or buying from local purveyors,” as part of their community-based initiative, all the while making for social media-worthy moments is the marketing epicenter for the brand.
Pushing into the lucrative, yet pricey, Manhattan market, Honeygrow is digging in with Minigrow - streamlined, more curated, smaller footprint locations, sans their touchscreen POS interface with a focus on an efficient assembly line.
The bend of the original style shows flexibility and a proactive approach to anticipating customers’ expectation, for instance, in the hyper-paced New York locations, while holding the position of staying on brand. Through genuine relationships with local growers, real social media, and a flavor-crafted menu, Honeygrow’s emergence is no marvel, rather paying attention to all the bits and pieces that make customers swarm.
To learn more about Emerging Brands, visit our Top 150 Emerging Brands Guide!
By Jim Berman, Industry Expert