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Fast-Casual Mediterranean Chain Cava Grill Seeks Nationwide Expansion

A Cava Grill location in Silver Spring, Md.

Another chain wants to become a household name in the upscale, fast-casual eatery world.

Cava Grill expects to open 10 new locations across the United States in the first half of 2019. It acquired competitor Zoe's Kitchen and its over 260 locations almost six months ago, and Cava CEO Brett Schulman believes Zoe's Kitchen's wider footprint will aid in that expansion, CNBC reports

The publicly traded Zoe's Kitchen had been struggling when Cava purchased it in November for $300M, but Schulman believes that taking the company private again will allow long-term strategies to turn it around to take root. CNBC reported that those strategies will include editing the menu and heeding the concerns of local managers and employees.

Diners at Cava customize their orders at a counter in the same style as Chipotle Mexican Grill, or one of the many regional chains with make-your-own salads like California-based Sweetgreen or Philadelphia-based honeygrow. Cava is betting that its Mediterranean background will align it with the newer concepts that have been in vogue for a few years, as opposed to the more mature chains that have been struggling over the same time period.

Even with Zoe's Kitchen locations far outnumbering Cava in the company's portfolio, the overall company remains profitable, CNBC reports. Cava has brought in Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich as chairman, hoping to leverage his experience making Panera into a national brand that has a reputation for thoughtfulness and quality.