Where Are They Now? Our 2019 Emerging Brands

Emerging Brands

Fishbowl’s Emerging Brands identifies brands that are best positioned to succeed in the year ahead. These brands exhibit strong promise of growth and embrace progressive developments that are innovative and unique. As Fishbowl is compiling the 2020 list, set to publish in March 2020 (Nominate your own favorite here!), let’s take a look at where the 2019 Top Emerging Brands are now! Overall, the top 10 brands have averaged 25% in-store growth since the article was published in 2019.

10. Punch Bowl Social

Punch Bowl Social provides a fresh, interactive experience, combining social gaming with high-quality culinary and craft beverage operations. Since they landed as number 10 on Fishbowl’s Emerging Brands list in 2019, Punch Bowl Social has also landed on other lists. They were named #1 on Fast Company’s “Gaming Sector” list back in February and was awarded one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” in July of 2019. Punch Bowl Social now has 19 locations across the United States, up 19% from the 16 reported in 2019, with at least 7 more planned in 2020 all the way from Florida to Missouri, Arizona to Pennsylvania and several in between! Cracker Barrell was said to invest up to $140M in Punch Bowl Social in a financing article published in July of 2019.


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9. Bibibop Asian Grill

Bibibop Asian Grill is a Korean-inspired restaurant that features customizable “bibibops”- a bowl that starts with a base of purple or white rice, salad or japchae (sweet potato noodles). Since they landed as number 9 on Fishbowl’s Emerging Brands list in 2019, Bibibop has been featured in publications like Nations Restaurant News for contributing to the Asian flavor boom across the United States along with Fast Casual and many more publications. Bibibop Asian Grill currently has 38 locations across the United States (up 27% in stores from the 30 locations noted in 2019) with at least 6 more planned in 2020 with the addition of a new state, Indiana, to its list.


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8. The Little Beet

The New York-based fast-casual concept, The Little Beet, is committed to cooking up plant-inspired, veggie-forward food using all-natural ingredients that “gives people the nutrients they need to live well”. Since they landed as number 8 on Fishbowl’s Emerging Brands list in 2019, The Little Beet has partnered with Atlantic Sea Farms to bring sustainable Kelp to the table and CEO Becky Mulligan, said the company is continuing to eye expansion. The Little Beet currently has 11 locations across 4 states with at least 4 more planned in 2020 according to an NRN article published April of 2019, up 22% from the 9 when Fishbowl published the article in 2019.


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7. Lemonade

California based Lemonade offers a variety of both lemonade flavors and entrees as diners move through the restaurant selecting their salads, braised meat dishes, and sandwiches cafeteria-style. Since they landed as number 7 on Fishbowl’s Emerging Brands list in 2019, Lemonade moved down from 28 to 26 locations (down 7%) according to their website, however, this may be due to their merger with Modern Market Eatery in early 2019.


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6. Urban Plates

Urban Plates is an upscale fast-casual restaurant concept that combines a passion for serving sustainably sourced, made-from-scratch meals with the “variety and vibrancy of a food marketplace” according to their website (urbanplates.com) Since they landed as number 6 on Fishbowl’s Emerging Brands list in 2019, they have added 3 new locations as well as a new CMO, Steve Greer from Bloomin’ Brands. Urban Plates currently has 19 locations in California and DC, up 19% in stores from the publishing of our list. According to NRN, the company plans to “double its size by 2021”. The article also states the Cardiff, Calif.-based chain is bolstering its executive leadership a year after closing a $38 million credit facility with Goldman Sachs Specialty Lending Group.


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5. Mendocino Farms

Known for premium salads and sandwiches, most of Mendocino Farms’ locations are in California, but the chain recently debuted the first of several planned for Houston. Del Pero and Chen founded the chain in Los Angeles in 2005, and the concept won an investment from TPG Growth in 2017. The family-owned chain recently named Kevin Miles, former Zoe’s Kitchen executive, as CEO according to NRN. Mendocino Farms currently has 30 locations across California and Texas, up 20% from last year with at least 8 more planned in 2020.


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4. Dig Inn

Dig Inn is a fast-casual brand that takes pride in sourcing its ingredients locally with sustainability in mind that received a $15M investment from Enlightened Hospitality investment earlier this year. The brand also has its own farm at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains and tries to keep its prices low by minimizing waste and utilizing the entire vegetable as well as serving nose-to-tail meats. Since they landed as number 4 on Fishbowl’s Emerging Brands list in 2019, Dig Inn has gone from 26 locations to 33 mostly across New York and Boston, up 27% for the year in locations.


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3. True Food Kitchen

True Food Kitchen was no newbie to Fishbowl’s emerging brand list in 2019 when it came in at #3 as it held the top spot in 2018. Known for its health-focused menu with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, the Arizona based company was founded by renowned physician and doctor of integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil on the simple belief that food should make you feel better, not worse. True Food Kitchen currently has 41 locations across 17 states with at least 8 openings in 2020, up substantially (78%%!!!) from its 23 locations in 2019.


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2. Bartaco

Bartaco specializes in street food favorites found in Southern California, Mexico, and South America. They finished #2 on Fishbowl’s 2019 Emerging brands list with 18 locations. According to their website, Bartaco has 21 restaurants now across 12 states, up 17% in new stores. According to Forbes, Bartaco is ready to skyrocket under its new ownership by Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group which was announced in May of 2018.


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1. Cava Grill

Cava Grill, what fans call the Chipotle of Mediterranean food, allows customers to personalize their own grain bowls, salads, and pitas with Mediterranean options like lamb meatballs, falafel, and roasted red pepper hummus. This brand was on Fishbowl’s list 3 of the last years but won’t show up in 2020 as they surpassed 75 locations in 2019. As of now, Cava Grill has 96 locations according to their website, up 20% in new stores from 2019. According to CNBC, Cava sets its sights on having an even bigger national presence after the Zoe’s Kitchen acquisition in November.


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Fishbowl’s Emerging Brands 2020 list is set to publish March of 2020 so make sure to Nominate your own favorite here!
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