BY TIM HUNT
When Tara and Roy Gilad’s daughter was born 11 years ago, she had severe food allergies.
That led Tara on a search for food supplies domestically as she created all of her daughter’s food herself. She then discovered that there were organic and nutritious “superfoods” available internationally and that sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. Both she and Roy had owned businesses so they launched Vitality Bowls with its first storefront in the Marketplace in San Ramon.
Their key ingredient is Acai berries that are grown only in the rain forest of Brazil. They also import other superfoods internationally.
Tara developed the recipes in her home kitchen in Danville with friends serving as the tasting panels. It should be noted that while she and Roy were experienced businesspeople, they knew nothing about the restaurant business. That hurdle– 80% of mom and pop restaurants fail in five years–did not stop them. They learned how to set up the kitchen to ensure no allergic contamination and developed the training to implement it with the staff at all of their locations.
They now own seven restaurants in the Tri-Valley. By 2015, four years into the business, they wanted to scale it nationally. That set off their quest to learn the franchising business. Research showed that 90% of franchises are in business 10 years after opening, compared to an 80% failure rate of stand-alone restaurants.
The Gilads started franchising and now have 75 locations in 17 states with more than 10 more locations pending as they celebrate their 10th anniversary this month.
Tara explained, “We have grown organically through customers coming into stores. They search for healthy food options. We are prime for what everyone is looking for—in the right sector (coming out of Covid). “They have been preparing for aggressive growth over the last year and have redon e their menu to include more “savory” options and swapped out paninis for wraps and designing toasts as sides to their juices. The new menu has been tested in some markets—it was in place at the Dublin site when I checked it out this week.
Vitality Bowls also has added John Mascali to its leadership team as chief operations officer to drive national expansion strategies.
When asked about the Midwest and the South, Tara said healthy eating is a national trend and they find people looking for opportunities there. She emphasized they are careful with potential franchisees, looking for people with passion for their mission, regardless of the potential location.
The company’s growth has been recognized on lists of top performers by Franchise Times, Inc. Magazine and Restaurant Business. The Gilads are actively seeking new franchisees across the country.
Tara said that a new buildout could cost $250,000-300,000, while renovating an existing space can be done for under $100,000. Their ideal space is small at 1,000 to 1,200 square feet with about one-third of that devoted to the kitchen. A priority, particularly in these days, is outdoor seating.
You can find a local restaurant or learn more at www.vitalitybowls.com