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Restaurants with 2+ locations that might be the next chain.

  • m

Any Restaurants in SF - that have several locations up to say 5 or 6 that really look and feel, taste like they have it all together enough to grow to the next level as a chain restaurant?

Anything of the sort that is a must try in SF?

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  1. Interesting question, as most folks around here would associate chains as being inferior.

    That said, the several Spices establishments around the Bay Area may fit your query.

    1. Slightly off point, but Little Sheep with locations in San Mateo and Union City is part of a Chinese chain which was just acquired by Yum Brands (owner of KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), so I fully expect to see those mini-courts that currently have those three brand restaurants under one roof to welcome Little Sheep as the fourth tenant.

      Little Sheep
      34396 Alvarado Niles Rd, Union City, CA 94587

      1. Is this a food question or a business question? By that I mean, is the "next level" the next business level or food level.

        When does a restaurant become a chain? I like Spices but even though they have several locations the food is not really consistent between locations. Maybe to be a chain you need both outlets and uniformity.

        Maybe La Boulange fits your bill or are they already a chain?

        12 Replies
        1. re: boris_qd

          The next level is when the food goes downhill.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Good point. It will be interesting to see if Tony's Pizza Napoletana goes downhill while Tony Gemignani is juggling shops in North Beach and Manhattan's West Village. I'm a fan of the guy but it will be a test.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Understandable that bad food is what a chain might be known for. I'm really looking for emerging restaurants that have superior food quality and the goal would be to maintain that quality in multiple store formats.

              1. re: mjsp1

                I'm curious where Gemignani is going with his wood-fired pizza restaurants. Strada, in London, is a huge pizza/pasta restaurant franchise with decent uniformity, wood-fired ovens and affordable prices.

                Tony's a smart and dedicated guy. He would probably insist on a standard much higher than Strada. It will be fun to watch this guy as he spreads his wings.

                1. re: mjsp1

                  Presumably people don't start chains with the intent of selling food of lower quality than their first store, but it always happens.

                  I don't see what this topic has to do with finding delicious food.

              2. re: boris_qd

                Perhaps we should use the "Chains" board definition, which I believe requires locations in multiple states.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  Interesting. So by that definition In-N-Out Burger is not a chain?

                  1. re: Civil Bear

                    There are In-N-Out's in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas

              3. Hopefully they don't become chains! But a few faves are Little star pizza, Burma superstar, in the EastBay there is also La Piniata.

                3 Replies
                1. re: IvyGal

                  I don't think there's any way Little Star could maintain its quality if it expanded a whole lot more.

                  I think Burma Superstar is already inconsistent.

                  Burma Superstar
                  4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Why would little star lose quality by growing?

                    1. re: mjsp1

                      Because great food is almost never about replicating recipes and appealing to a broad spectrum of tastes using Sysco cutlets.

                      Consistency = homogeneity. Not the San Francisco (chef and ingredient driven) way, which is the reason we don't have a lot of branches of high-end chains like Las Vegas does.

                      Pizza's not a very interesting example though. But the reason to go to Tony's Pizza is Tony himself--world pizza throwing champion, pizza fanatic. Once Tony's in NY, the quality in San Francisco will certainly diminish, even if he handbuilds each oven, mentors the pizza makers, etc

                      The goal of chains is growth and consistent profits for investors, not a great dining experience.

                2. Lanesplitter. Good pizza. 4 stores? All in the East Bay. Not very chain-like however.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ML8000

                    Five if you count the two takeout-only stores. It's very chain-like in that they all have the same menu. Not very chain-like in that the pizza is good.

                  2. I am a big fan of The Grove -- they opened a location in Hayes Valley a few months ago that immediately became a favorite hang-out for SF Conservatory of Music students such as myself. They have at least one more location in the city, the food is good, they have beers on tap, and it's not crazy over-priced like everything else in Hayes! Not a must-try, "destination" restaurant, but certainly the place I'd direct people to go if they were stopping by my school for a performance and wanted to get a bite to eat somewhere with comfy ambiance, good service, and not too much $.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: operagirl

                      The Grove opened its fourth location in January, but the owner said he was stopping there.

                    2. Sorabol. The Korean place best known for being in the Westfield food court. Actually has about 7 or 8 locations in CA. The question is wether people outside CA are willing to pay $12 for lunch and a drink. But it is maybe the best fast food restaurant in the best food court in the States. So it has that going for it.

                      Papalote has two joints. I don't know if they could expand further. But it could dominate in almost any market IF they were able to keep quality control... I think it is owned by 2 brothers who are constantly managing, so I don't know the feasibility of this.

                      Obviously, Barney's could go national if its owners wanted.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: whiner

                        Actually more.
                        "Sorabol has established several locations throughout California, Las Vegas Nevada and currently has plans to expand into Washington State and East cost locations in New York and Washington D.C."
                        Oops left out:
                        SM MEGAMALL
                        Lower Level
                        Mandaluyong City, Philippines
                        (632) 633-4241

                        1. re: whiner

                          Sorabol is supposed to open its 14th location later this year, so it's looking more and more like a chain. My friend from Korea thinks the food is merely OK.

                          1. re: nocharge

                            "Merely okay" is pretty good for chain fast-food!

                          2. re: whiner

                            The Sorabol chain has been around for a long time. I think they may be smaller than they were a few years ago. The food is OK but there's some serious competition around here, no reason ever to eat there.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              There's no reason to eat at McDonald's or Kentucky Fried either except price, convenience and people like it.

                          3. Let's hone this a bi furthur and think about Fast Casual - order at the counter style restaurants.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: mjsp1

                              I think an obvious one is Plant Cafe Organic. Right now only three locations (one is a full-scale restaurant but the other two are fast-casual), but I think it's a type of food that has a growing appeal. http://www.theplantcafe.com/about_mis...

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Plant has a location at SFO shared with a Pinkberry so definitely heading that way.

                                  368 Santana Row, San Jose, CA 95128

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Unfortunately the Plant Cafe "plant burger" I had at SFO in T2 was a fraction of the tasty creation served at the one on pier on the Embarcadero. This was in their first or second week open, so perhaps they have gotten better.

                              1. OTD - Out the Door. I believe there are 3 and I could see this concept spreading.

                                Out the Door
                                1 Ferry Bldg Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                Out the Door
                                845 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                Out the Door
                                2232 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

                                1. I don't know if this qualifies as a "restaurant", per se, but Blue Bottle Coffee has seven locations, including one in Brooklyn.

                                  ETA: They list seven, but one of these "locations" is really a tab for all their farmers market stands.

                                  Blue Bottle Cafe
                                  66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                  1. Pluto's. Has a few locations. Always seemed like strip mall/food court material to me.

                                    Blue Bottle is also spreading. Barefoot has plans to open up a few other locations this summer (Los Gatos, Campbell, Walnut Creek). Stumptown will be expanding - possibly moving into SF ( http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co... )

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: scarmoza

                                      Yes, Pluto's. I've often heard people saying there should be more of those around. Convenient for when you want a sandwich or a salad of better than average quality for fast casual.

                                    2. Jason,

                                      yes i have a boutique private equity firm focused on emerging restaurant brands - that have great inspired management, first in class food quality & the ability to get to the next level.

                                      1. Plant Cafe and Mixt Greens come to mind.

                                        Mixt Greens
                                        114 Sansome St Ste 120, San Francisco, CA 94104

                                        1. Osha Thai

                                          Osha Thai
                                          819 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                          1. Super Duper burgers. Original in the Castro, just opened in FiDi/Union Square, and a third to open soon in Marin.

                                            1. Toast


                                              How about buying up the now-in-bancruptcy Marie Callendar's chain and turning it good again? Corporate greed killed that restaurant by decreasing the quality until it is where it is now.

                                              That's the thing with corporations. They take a quality product, have no clue what makes it successful and chip away at it until it is generic junk. I ... wanna go ... to a good Marie Calendar's again. Ive been there when it was really good a long time ago.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Reminds me of the time we got off the freeway at some godforsaken mall in Orange County and found ourselves lunching at ... Pasta Pomodoro. The food was better than average for a mall joint, but somehow the experience left me feeling sad. It was once (and still is @24th St last I checked) a simple, winning formula. But by the time it scales, and the home office expands and inevitably converts the formula into rules, processes, industrial strength automation... there is no room for soul or heart or homeyness. The result fits well in an OC mall, or even the one in Emeryville, but it is ultimately just sad.

                                                1. re: BernalKC

                                                  Enjoy the small local chains while you can. Once they hit phase 2...it's over.