First known as the melting pot, and then the salad bowl, the U.S. offers a variety of markets and tastes for international dining concepts.
U.S. chains continue to expand internationally, but innovative international concepts are filling niches and gaining popularity here as well.
Mad For Garlic, a Korean restaurant focused on garlic-centric foods, partnered with Bridging Culture Worldwide, a global consulting firm, to make its transition to the U.S.
“This is much different [than a Korean restaurant], it is an Italian garlic concept that originated in Korea,” says Don Southerton, CEO and president of Bridging Culture Worldwide.
Mad For Garlic, which has signature dishes such as Dracula Killer, Garlic Snowing Pizza, Garlicpeno Pasta, Mushroom Risotto, and Garlic Steak, expanded through Asia and the Philippines, and now is seeking franchisees for U.S. markets.
“Korean brands are highly regarded,” Southerton says. “The reception has been phenomenal.” However, Southerton stresses the importance of researching real estate opportunities in each market. “[Before coming to America] the idea needs to be polished and successful, the most successful in its current market,” Southerton says.
Already having success in this country is Mari Vanna, a Russian home-style cuisine concept that has opened in Washington, New York, and, most recently, Los Angeles.
Named for the fairytale grandmother of Slavic folklore, Mari Vanna’s ambiance is a mixture of grandma’s house and garden party, with fairytale design elements that are meant to bring back memories of the diner’s childhood.
The Los Angeles eatery marks the sixth location of the international chain, spearheaded by Russian hospitality group Ginza Project.
“You have to learn the flavor of the area. You have to know everything when you open the restaurant [in a new city] in terms of competition, what the customer wants, and how to market,” says Tatiana Brunetti, Mari Vanna and Ginza Project partner.
“You learn something new at each location. As we are going forward, we learn as we go.”
For instance, she says people in Los Angeles “like more light, the colors of material more bright,” so the Los Angeles design boasts brighter colors and a more airy feel than the London location.