Native Foods is back in growth mode.
The Chicago-based vegan chain, which slimmed down its Colorado presence half a decade ago, is opening its first new location since 2014 at 9996 Common St. in Lone Tree this January.
“Lone Tree was a market that stood out for us and has a lot of the guests we already welcome in our other locations,” CEO Carin Stutz said. “There was enough of a commercial and residential base that would support both our lunch and dinner.”
Native Foods has two existing locations in Colorado. It’s been in Boulder since 2012, and Glendale since 2013.
The company’s plant-based menu includes lunch and dinner items such as plant-based meatball sub, vegan nachos and chicken tenders, and meatless burgers.
Chef Tanya Petrovna founded the company in 1994 in Southern California and opened 10 restaurants before selling the brand in 2009 to Daniel Dolan and Andrea McGinty, who moved the company to Chicago.
After raising $25 million from 2012 to 2014, the chain began an aggressive campaign to open 200 restaurants by 2018.
Within a couple years, however, momentum stalled, and the company began closing locations. A Lakewood location closed in 2015, and restaurants at Denver Pavilions in downtown Denver and at 2023 S. Colorado Blvd. in University Park shuttered in 2016.
In 2018, Native Foods was acquired by St. Louis-based private equity firm Millstone Capital Advisors.
Besides the Colorado locations, Native Foods has four restaurants in Illinois and five in California. The Lone Tree location is Native Foods’s first expansion in all of its markets in eight years.
“The new owners really believed in the brand and the future that plant-based food is going to play,” Stutz said. “Since we only have two locations in Colorado, there’s a lot of white space and opportunities to grow the brand. We wanted to maximize in the markets we’re in before moving into new states.”
Native Foods signed a lease for the 2,000-square-foot Lone Tree space in July. Broker Lisa Vela of Colliers represented the company. The new restaurant will be the first store to feature the company’s rebrand, with a bolder and more colorful logo.
Stutz said Native Foods plans to open seven or eight restaurants in Colorado over the next few years. Possible markets include Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Westminster.
Correction: This story has been updated to highlight current menu items, and to clarify the time frame for the company’s planned Colorado expansion.