Roti Mediterranean Grill is growing, and it's got the backing of a big-time fast food guy.
The force behind Roti, an upscale fast casual concept that launched in 2007, is Mats Lederhausen. He's a former McDonald's exec and former chairman of Chipotle Mexican Grill. He helped grow the burrito chain from 2003 to 2006 in the run-up to its big IPO.
"I spent 100 percent of my time on building businesses that solve human problems," Lederhausen tells us. "I want to work with businesses that I believe have a purpose that's bigger than their product."
In this case, he wants to help change how people eat.
If you're not familiar, Roti offers sandwiches, salads and plates of its Mediterranean selection, along with sides of hummus or falafels. The chain currently has 14 restaurants.
And now, Roti is coming to New York City.
"Our type of food matches up very well with the New York customer," says Lederhausen. "They have a slightly more sophisticated palette."
After all, if you can make it in NYC, you can make it pretty much anywhere. Roti is planning on opening 10 locations in Manhattan over the next two to three years.
"I think it's a great test for a concept to really see and get better," he says. "If you survive, I think you're going to be better for it."
The fast casual segment that Roti competes in is intense and rapidly growing. Competition is always tough, since every restaurant — not just ones with similar types of food — fight for every meal.
But it's not all about growth. Roti has other priorities.
"We're not a quantity kind of company. We are a quality-based company," says Lederhausen. "We don't have ingredients that you can't pronounce."
He wants Roti to be about good, clean, healthy food, though he doesn't want health concerns to be the singular focus of the brand.
"I don't believe that the solution is to lead with health. People at the end of the day want to eat really good tasting food that they crave," he says. "There's no guilt. You can eat whatever you want and you feel really good because it's fresh and there's good ingredients — and you'll still be really full."