D.C. Fast-Casual Food Players in Expansion Mode

As consumers demand better ingredients and turn their back on fast-food restaurants, we want to highlight a few D.C.-based favorites that have the ability to change the way we  – and possibly the rest of America eat.

Cava Grill

No. of Locations: (2)

In the Works: (3) Tenleytown | Merrifield | Columbia Heights

Beyond our Borders: Looking to expand beyond DC (not immediately)

Franchise: Would like to retain 100% control of food and brand

“With Cava Grill, we have worked to offer this premium food, that has a naturally healthy profile, to time conscience, health conscience, and budget conscience consumers. We have a zero waste program/all our disposable materials are composted, we use reclaimed wood in our mill work, led lighting etc), an inviting atmosphere, and dedicated crew has appealed to and aligned with our customers’ lifestyle attributes.”

Taylor Gourmet

No. of Locations: (4)

In the Works: (2) Dupont | Merrifield

Beyond our Borders: Possible expansion on the east coast in the future

Franchise: Not interested in the franchise model right now, want to keep organic growth

Attributes of Success: Quality ingredients, consistent product, good vibe in shops and most of all, everyone has fun at work

ShopHouse Asian Kitchen

Chipotle’s Asian sister is being tested in our own backyard with much hope invested in the concept. One day, it could be as a big as Chipotle and the business community will be watching developments closely as company stock continues to soar.

No. of Locations: (1)

In the Works: (1) Georgetown

Beyond our Borders: If successful in D.C., a national expansion is likely to follow

Franchise: No

Elevation Burger

As the country’s premiere organic burger chain, Elevation is giving us reasons to love a simple and tasty burger.

No. of Locations: Too many to count

In The Works: Unknown

Beyond our Borders: Outlets are already open in states such as Florida, California, Texas and New-York.

Franchise: Yes


Photo Credit: Cava PR / Taylor PR


Foreign Retailers Attack

Foreign retailers are invading our shores and Crain’s has a great article (eventhough its a year old) that highlights a growing trend. As the fast-fashion craze continues, should American retailers be worried? Gap, Inc is opening stores overseas as it’s namesake brand shrinks in size and sales within the United States. Meanwhile, Zara (Inditex), H&M, and TopShop continue expanding from positions of financial strength. The latter has a store opening in Chicago planned for this year and already has set its’ eyes on the West Coast. Closer to home, British retailer All Saints Spitalfields recently opened a store in Georgetown. After reading about the potential opening of Massimo Dutti in New-York City, we contacted Inditex to see whether the store had a future in Washington. Their press office elected to make no comment. After stumbling early on, Uniqlo has big plans for Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue  as does Spain’s Desigual and we would not be surprised if the nation’s capital is not in both retailers’ sights.

Bold= No presense in the metropolitan area.

Taj Hotels Eyes D.C Market

You don’t know true luxury and ultimate pampering until you’ve stayed in a Taj hotel. The Internationalist has eyed the company’s ambitions towards the American market for some time. With upscale properties in Boston, San-Francisco, and New-York, it comes as no surprise that DC is on their list of target cities.

In an interview with Hindu Business Line, Raymond Bickson, CEO of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, expressed interest in expanding into more American markets. “We have identified cities such as Los Angeles, Washington, Miami, Chicago – those are the only ones we would be interested in,” said Bickson.

Further confirmation of interest was cemented in a story penned by HotelWorld Network.

Hotels have been eyed for possible inclusion under the Taj flag, including The Drake in Chicago, the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans and The Watergate in Washington, D.C., which was just scooped up in May for $45 million by a real estate investment firm (Bickson says he just met with the new owners).

With The Watergate “scooped up,” which property is Taj eyeing? The Internationalist reached out to the company’s public relations firm in New-York, but no comment or response was offered.

Photographs: Courtesy of Taj Hotels


Washingtonians: Obsessed with Money, Power, and Education?

JFK once said “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” I have grown up in this area for the majority of my life, and I recall fond memories of my childhood. Families and children gathering together in neighborhoods. Vacant roads. People leading a laid-back lifestyle. Overall, there was a sense of being content with life. Fancy that. We had something in common with those socialistic Europeans. You know. The ones that take too many vacations in a year.

But times change, and I no longer recognize my hometown. Over the last ten years, people have no desire to know their neighbors or get together as they once did. Casual meetings are now replaced with fixed appointments. Our roads are engulfed in endless traffic. On-going construction with no practical solutions or quick remedies in sight have not eased our suffering. The once renowned transportation system is overloaded and under-funded. Education, power, and money are on the agenda of all the new and soulless predators engulfing this town. New-Yorkers work hard and play hard. Washingtonians work hard, but have no time to play. If it’s not texting on the blackberry, discussing how to rip-off the government, then it’s the iPhone that keeps them occupied. It would be unfair to say people here don’t have manners. They just have no time to start a conversation. See, that takes an effort. And all the type-a individuals want to use their energy on getting more educated, obtaining a higher paying job, and volunteering themselves till the end of time. I suggest trying the Japanese art of origami. Maybe these folks can learn how to fold themselves to death.

DC has spent the last ten years transforming itself. Desperately trying to nudge its way into the ranks of a true world capital along side New-York, London, Paris, and Tokyo. But I think we need to slow down, and remember who we are. While change and progress are good, that should never involve surrendering our identity of being a city of  “Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”


Daljit Dhaliwal on…Al-Jazeera English

Former Worldfocus/CNN International/ITN news anchor Daljit Dhaliwal hit the broadcasting airwaves on Al-Jazeera English today. We spotted her at 2 PM EST on the Newshour show. Newshour provides an hour of world news hosted from three of Al Jazeera’s four broadcast centres, linked together live. In this case, it was Darren Jordan in Doha, Julie McDonald in London, and Daljit Dhaliwal anchoring in Washington.

Daljit has known to freelance since her days at CNNi ended. She recently served as anchor of Worldfocus until the show was cancelled due to a lack of funding. As for AJE, it’s unclear whether this is a one-time gig, but we’re glad she’s back on-air.

Update 8/13/2010: Contacted her agency HD Reps. Officially, no comment could be made. Personally, I would expect her to stay on for quite some time. Two Washington anchors have moved; Ghidha Fakhry to Doha and Rob Reynolds to Los-Angeles causing a “gap” in the schedule.