Thursday, February 4, 2021

[EXCLUSIVE] Zoës Kitchen Chastain Park to Close, Cava Conversion Planned

Multiple sources with knowledge of the restaurant chain's plans tell ToNeTo Atlanta that the Zoës Kitchen in Chastain Park will soon close.  The restaurant, located in Tuxedo Festival at the corner of Roswell and Piedmont Roads, was the second Zoës to open in metro Atlanta when it debuted in late 2010.  The roughly 3,000 square foot Zoës space will not stay vacant for long, however, with plans to open Cava, a quick-serve Mediterranean eatery, in its place. 

Cava, owned by Rockville, Maryland-based Cava Group, took then public Zoës Kitchen private in a $300 million deal backed by Panera founder Ron Shaich in 2018.  This past summer, Zoës closed several locations across the country.  In Georgia, the company shuttered eight units, of which four subsequently reopened.  

It remains unclear when exactly Zoës will close and Cava will open, but sources say conversion/renovation plans for the space are actively being developed.  Sources tell ToNeTo Atlanta further that while Cava had before its Zoës   acquisition looked at entering the Atlanta market, this conversion will serve as their Atlanta debut, and while there are no current plans for any additional conversions/new locations, others are likely to follow in the months and years to come. Interestingly, according to a Cava spokesperson, there is no reciprocity between the two concepts when it comes to gift card usage.   

We have tried Cava on visits to the D.C. area, Maryland and North Carolina and found the food quite good and would compare the concept - as many others do - to a Mediterranean version of Chipotle Mexican Grill.  As opposed to Zoës, at Cava there is far more opportunity for customization as there are plenty of combination and variation options vs. the more static menu at Zoës.  

Cava entered the Charlotte market - seen by many as a "baby Buckhead" - in 2018, and now has a total of four units in the Queen City and nine with a tenth coming soon, in North Carolina.

The company also last year opened new CAVA restaurants in former Zoës Kitchen units in Boulder and Fort Collins Colorado, as well as more recently in the Willow Lawn neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia.  The Willow Lawn Cava, which opened January 15 after closing as Zoës in mid November 2020, could be a good example of the roughly two month downtime that Chastain Park area residents could expect between concepts.  

Inside Cava near Arundel Mills in Maryland 

In Tuxedo Festival, Cava joins existing eateries such as Chopt, Duck Donuts, Marcello's Trattoria and Menchies. In addition to Cava, the center will later this April welcome Buff City Soap, a growing fresh made soap franchise, which is opening in place of longstanding eatery Gallery Cafe that closed at the end of 2020 after more than two decades in business.   

Gallery Cafe's closure reportedly means that center owner Edens is again seeking a restaurant to backfill the former Flip space which the landlord had previously avoided given the number of restaurants and the related parking issues.  

When Cava does open, it will no doubt compete to some degree with neighboring "bowl" concept Chopt, but will also likely face competition from locally owned Sahara Café in nearby Chastain Square.  Sahara, also a quick-serve Mediterranean eatery, opened this past June in place of a former Starbucks and has quickly grown a devoted following for their made-to-order bowls, salads, gyros and more.  

Owner Hussein admittedly modeled Sahara after Cava, but if his restaurant's five star ratings on Yelp and Google are any indication, people love his food and he should do just fine after his corporate rival opens. 

Cava's Atlanta debut follows years of rumors of their interest in the market but now follows, rather than leads, other Mediterranean quick-serve chains to the area.  New York's The Hummus & Pita Co. opened last year in Dunwoody, and fellow New York chain Halal Guys now has units open in Chamblee, Midtown and Duluth.  

Have you been to Cava before?  If so, how do you think Cava compares to Zoës, Sahara or other Mediterranean concepts?  Where else in metro Atlanta would you like to see Cava open?

Please share your thoughts below. 


amasova said...

Cava is the BEST!! I have been waiting so long for them to come to GA.

Anon said...

Cava is more like Mod Pizza than Chipotle. Lots of topping choices. I've also been waiting for years for them to get here. Yeah!

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