Falafill is gearing up for a major Chicago expansion in the next few months, shooting to have five shops open by the end of this year.
Owner Maher Chebaro, who opened his clean, colorful Lakeview shop in September of 2009, said he's worked out the details of the lease agreements for three new shops in the Gold Coast, Loop and Oak Park; a second Loop location, or possibly one in the South Loop, could round out the expansion for 2011. He couldn't reveal the exact locations since the leases aren't finalized.
The new spots will vary in size from 700 square feet without seating to approximately 1,360 square feet, which will be in Oak Park. The locations will likely open between late March and the summer, starting with the Gold Coast location.
Chebaro, who owned nightclubs in Beirut and was a partner at Wicker Park's Souk, said they're also scouting locations in Evanston, Rogers Park, Lincoln Park and elsewhere. Their goal is to have 15 restaurants in Chicago by the end of 2012. "It's all about the right space," he said. "It's a learning process for us. We're testing different markets and demographics."
With the expansion, Falafill's logo and decor will also get a makeover. And the new locations will have what Chebaro called Falafill Plus. "Those locations will have meat, but something completely new that we're developing ourselves," Chebaro said. "It's not on the market yet, but it's inspired by falafel." This is where his partnership with Ziyad Brothers, a major distributor of premium Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food products in the U.S., comes into play. Since the product is still in the R&D phase, he couldn't reveal exactly what it is.
Chebaro said they're also talking to people in various places, including New York, California and Michigan, about franchising Falafill. "Our goal is to be up to about 100 [locations] in five years," he said. Now that's a lot of chickpeas.