Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe's branches out; new restaurants planned in Chattanooga

photo From left, Jim Keet, President and CEO of Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe; Heath Haley, one of the owners; and Brad Emendorfer, local owner and operator, discuss future plans in the new Gunbarrel Road location of Taziki's on Wednesday in Chattanooga. Crews there are still working to have that location ready for its mid-August opening and the group is planning to aggressively expand in the region during the next 18 months.


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Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe is sinking its teeth into the Scenic City.

The Birmingham, Ala., restaurant chain is opening a second location in East Brainerd, local franchisee Brad Emendorfer said. And that location will be followed by a third restaurant in Hixson within 18 months.

Eventually, Emendorfer, who already operates the Taziki's in downtown Chattanooga, expects to operate as many as five of the fast casual Mediterranean restaurants in the region, perhaps eventually adding locations in Ooltewah and North Georgia.

"Our goal is to expand and fully develop the Chattanooga market," he said. "But by no means are we putting the cart ahead of the horse. We want to make sure our second location is very successful and we can provide top-level service and quality to our guests in East Brainerd and give them what they deserve."

The new Taziki's at 2020 Gunbarrel Road will open Aug. 13. Emendorfer expects to hire about 30 people. He and his partners at TOC Inc. are spending around $500,000 to get the new restaurant up and running, and once finished, the Taziki's will seat 122 people both inside and on an outdoor patio.

The new Taziki's will keep the same hours as the Taziki's on Market Street and will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., said Market Street store manager Tommy Prichett.

"It's going to be busier than our Market Street location with more traffic and easier parking," Prichett said. "But otherwise, as far as quality and customer serive, that will be the same."

Emendorfer's push into the Chattanooga market is part of a corporate strategy for aggressive growth, he said. Taziki's was founded in 1998 and now includes 27 locations throughout the Southeast and into the West. Besides the Chattanooga expansion, the chain has new restaurants in the pipeline in three other cities.

Emendorfer started with the downtown location in 2011 in order to build brand recognition in a less competitive area before moving to more hotly-contested areas like East Brainerd.

"When there are so many other areas for retail and nobody's heard of you, you can be overlooked," he said. "Downtown we're able to really get out and introduce ourselves. So we wanted to start where they work and expand to where they live. Now they know who we are when they see us on the drive home."

Emendorfer is the Taziki's franchisee for all of East Tennessee, and expects to expand the chain into Knoxville as well as Chattanooga. He added that he thinks Taziki's can offer a high-quality fast casual dining experience.

"One of the great things we do is provide great value for the level of experience that we give our guests, in my personal opinion and being as unbiased as I can," he said. "I think our value is as good as any other value in the business."

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