Ezra Carmel dives into the location analytics behind Cava’s growth in a turbulent economic climate.
Although many dining chains have been challenged by recent economic headwinds, others are finding success. Adding itself to the list of restaurant winners in 2023 is Cava, a 250-unit Mediterranean chain that recently filed for an initial public offering. We dove into the location analytics for Cava to take a closer look at how the company is thriving in a turbulent economic climate and what lies ahead for the chain in its next chapter.
Cava has shown a remarkable ability to drive foot traffic over the past couple of years. Since 2019, its baseline visit growth has outperformed the fast-casual restaurant space nearly every month — with visits really taking off in 2021. The brand has been able to capitalize on growing suburban markets, accounting for 80% of locations, which may be contributing to the chain’s visit growth.
Visits to Cava have skyrocketed. And like other fast-casual success stories, Cava has embraced drive-thrus and invested in a streamlined in-store experience, both of which are likely contributing to at least some of the brand’s recent strength.
A fast favorite
Zooming into visits per venue showcases Cava’s strength even more clearly. Cava’s visits-per-venue seem to follow industry trends as overall fast casual visits-per-venue fell year-over-year between January and April 2023. Cava’s visit-per-venue growth slowed as well. But although the direction was similar, the actual performance differed substantially, with the company significantly outperforming the wider fast-casual category.
Cava’s YoY monthly visits per venue have been up since January 2023 — a particularly impressive feat in light of the chain’s continued expansion, and an indication that new locations are driving traffic despite the current economic environment. So, while Cava appears to be affected by broader restaurant trends, the brand remains far ahead of the fast-casual dining space.
Cava’s bold brick-and-mortar strategy is part of the reason why it has been able to get ahead of the pack in the fast-casual category. The company acquired Zoës Kitchen in 2018 and has since rebranded almost all Zoës Kitchen locations as Cava restaurants. Such a move is relatively rare in the restaurant industry, but location analytics show that the move has paid off.
Since Q1 2021, Cava’s YoY visits per venue have consistently outperformed visits-per-venue at the remaining Zoës Kitchen locations. This not only validates Cava’s decision to phase out the Zoës Kitchen brand but also suggests that Cava resonates with Zoës Kitchen diners who continue to visit a location when it becomes a Cava restaurant.
Hungry For More
Cava’s IPO announcement is a welcome next step for one of the fastest-growing fast-casual chains. With a focused expansion strategy and an eye on growing markets, there may be no telling how far the company can go.
Editor’s note: This blog was republished with permission from Placer.ai
Ezra Carmel is a Content Writer at Placer.ai and enjoys sharing new location intelligence insights with industry professionals. You can find his analyses on everything from buffets to the Super Bowl at https://www.placer.ai/blog.