Craveworthy Brands CEO Gregg Majewski said he is excited to partner with C3 for the first time and work with Sam Nazarian’s digital restaurant company to launch the franchising platform for an emerging Mediterranean fast-casual brand he is convinced has enormous growth potential.

“Sam reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in talking to him about some of his brands,” said Majewski, “and we’ve been talking since January trying to get a deal in place to franchise some of his brands. Soom Soom is the first one we decided to pull the trigger with because it was the one that I was most excited about.”

Gregg Majewski, CEO of Craveworthy Brands

Gregg Majewski, CEO of Craveworthy Brands

Founded by Zhi Elgar, who immigrated to the U.S. from Israel in the ‘90s, the first Soom Soom opened in 2016 in Los Angeles and it now has three Southern California locations.

C3 has been working to grow Soom Soom under a joint partnership with the small chain since 2021 and has been testing the brand’s brick-and-mortar market expansion potential in its Citizens food halls in New York and Atlanta.

Soom Soom’s menu features Middle Eastern staples such as falafel, shawarma and hummus, all made with fresh ingredients.

Majewski’s ambitious plans are to sign 100 Soom Soom franchise agreements next year in all 27 states that Craveworthy operates in. He expects it will take nine to 12 months to open those locations, depending on the area development deals.

“We’re going to blow this one out,” Majewski said. “This is going to be a high-scale, high-growth franchise for us with multi-unit operators dividing up the country and going in as fast as we possibly can.”

Majewski, a former Jimmy John’s CEO, established Craveworthy earlier this year with the goal of finding and growing the next hot restaurant concept. Its current portfolio of emerging brands includes Wing It On, The Budlong Southern Chicken and Krafted Burger Bar + Tap. Through its acquisition this spring of Mongolian Concepts, it also owns full-service restaurant brands BD’s Mongolian Grill, Genghis Grill and Flat Top Grill. And Craveworthy has three of its own virtual brands: Lucky Cat Poke, Scramblin’ Ed’s and Pastizza.

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“In my eyes there is one national player in this Mediterranean space and everybody else is basically regional,” said Majewski, a reference to non-franchised Cava, which has nearly 300 units and went public in June. “With this brand, it allows me to go and franchise what right now is one of the hottest IPOs and a segment that everybody knows.”

Soom Soom, he continued, can be franchised with a cheaper buildout and none of the multi-unit operators have non-competes within Craveworthy’s portfolio.

“It was just a perfect opportunity at a perfect time with a brand that to me is the original Mediterranean concept. They’ve been doing it for longer than anybody and they just never gotten to the national stage, and now they’re going to be able to do that with our help,” Majewski added. “The food is incredible. It’s fresh and it blows everybody else out of the water.”

Forming a partnership with C3 to help build out Soom Soom’s franchise platform is an added bonus, said Craveworthy’s CEO. Under the direction of Nazarian, C3 has emerged as a leader in the ghost kitchen space. C3 is an offshoot of SBE, the nightclub and hospitality group owned by Nazarian.

While much of C3’s focus the past few years has been on digital kitchens, with its virtual brands deployed through ghost kitchens—the company’s move into physical, dine-in restaurants has been a goal since day one, according to SBE Chief Business Officer, Jay Patel.

“Digital kitchens were a big part of our business and still are,” said Patel. “We started in 2019 and then COVID happened, so we did focus heavily on that for a period of time—but the long- term goal for our brands was to have locations in food halls, franchise locations, physical locations internationally via licensing structures, as well as expanding into airports, government facilities and college campuses.”

C3  recently expanded its partnership with TGI Fridays, bringing its Krispy Rice brand on the menu at more than 140 Fridays restaurants.

The company has also formed additional, interesting restaurant deals this year, including its agreement with private aviation network Xo to serve food from virtual brands such as Hecho Libre and Plant Nation on private jets.

“At C3, we are always on the lookout for partners who understand the evolving landscape of the food industry, and who share a collective mission,” said Nazarian in a statement.Teaming up with Craveworthy Brands, led by the visionary Gregg Majewski, to franchise Soom Soom across the country, is a testament to the power of innovation and a shared passion for delivering exceptional dining experiences.

“We look forward to bringing beloved and health-conscious Mediterranean food to the masses,” Nazarian said.

Editor’s Note: This story includes additional reporting by Bernadette Heier, Food On Demand Associate Editor.