When the NextGen chain began in 2016, it did so with a mission to create memorable experiences.

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Finney’s Crafthouse

Westlake Village, California

Units: 7

Founded: 2016

When Finney’s Crafthouse began in 2016, it did so with a mission to create memorable experiences, says Brad Finefrock, who directs business development for the Southern California–based brand.

More specifically, that translates to 50 made-from-scratch burgers, sandwiches, steaks, tacos, pizzas, and salads at a value-oriented price range, 30 local craft beers on tap, and other specialty drinks. The target demographic has no limits, Finefrock says, ranging from “mini Finney’s” all the way up to grandparents.

“The NextGen Casual concept or moniker really resonated well with us because we’ve been trying to pinpoint who we are and why we’ve seen initial good success and a good following behind us,” Finefrock says. “And I think there’s a lot of consumers out there nowadays that are looking for concepts like ours that are specialized, have great food, great service, but it’s casual, it’s fun, it’s modern, and it appeals to all generations.”

Finney’s was established by Finefrock’s twin brother, Greg, who has decades of restaurant experience, including franchise development for Baja Fresh and The Counter. Brad Finefrock was initially a silent investor, but eventually came onboard to help with growth, while Greg focuses on day-to-day operations and fine-tuning financials.

Since opening the first location in Westlake Village, Finney’s has expanded to seven locations in the past six years, including debuts in Burbank and Porter Ranch in 2021. Three more stores are scheduled to open this year in downtown Orange, Laguna Beach, and Camarillo, and another three are set for 2023.

Dimitra Rizzi

Restaurants are designed with centuries-old brick walls reclaimed from old factories, schools, and mills from New England; wood-paneled ceilings made from reclaimed snow fences from Wyoming; antique copper bars; leather barstools; and Edison lights.

Each store, equipped with vintage photographs, televisions for sports viewing, and a classic rock soundtrack, emphasizes localization.

“What we’ve noticed with these bigger, much more recognizable brands is that you come into them, and there’s no personality,” Finefrock says. “It’s just a big box with the same colors, with the same kind of boring artwork.” He adds that avoiding these cookie-cutter designs has become a cornerstone of the brand’s expansion.

Finney’s seeks class-A real estate, with the intention of being “on the corner of Main and Main” and waiting patiently for that “once-in-a-generation spot,” as Finefrock puts it.

He and his brother are wary of other Southern California chains with 10–20 units that have ventured into Arizona, Virginia, or Texas with one-offs, only to see underperformance. That’s why Finney’s plans to stick with what it knows in the Golden State. It could potentially range as far up as Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, and the Bay Area, and all the way down to San Diego, Carlsbad, and Oceanside.

“We know that it works here; we know that the clientele is relatively similar. The price points are attractive,” Finefrock says. “They like the design and atmosphere, and it’s a California concept. We’re not trying to introduce ourselves to a different state where they may not appreciate our California ideals as much.”

Chain Restaurants, Feature, NextGen Casual