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‘Craveable food’ draws owner to Hummus & Pita


The Hummus Shake and falafel pita are heading West as The Hummus & Pita Co. grows.

It was Jersey Mike’s No. 13, The Original Italian, that piqued Dan Markel’s interest in franchising. “It was the best sandwich I’d ever had,” recalls Markel, who was on the hunt for investment opportunities and decided the East Coast-style sub brand was the right fit. Since its opening in 2013, Markel’s Jersey Mike’s in Van Nuys, California, has become a top five revenue-producing store for the brand and Markel has made it his mission to seek out brands that “can combine great operations with great, craveable food.”

The latest brand to meet his criteria, The Hummus & Pita Co., is poised for growth in California after Markel signed a 100-unit development agent agreement to add the New York City-based concept to his Pure Blue Dining holding company that also includes Dog Haus. Markel was the founder of several start-ups and worked in commercial real estate development.“I’m blessed and cursed as an entrepreneur to always think big,” he says, explaining his goal of building a team to operate “multiple complementary, craveable brands.”

Markel spent two years researching Mediterranean concepts before connecting with FranSmart and Dan Rowe, who introduced him to Hummus & Pita Co. and its co-founder Dave Pesso. The concept’s menu of pitas, laffas, Middle Eastern bowls and sides is authentic, yet “slightly Americanized and honoring all Mediterranean ethnicities,” notes Markel, while the fast-casual model provides for simpler operations.

Dan Markel

Dan Markel

Markel, who plans to own and operate Hummus & Pita Co. units and sign franchisees, believes he has an advantage on the real estate side with being able to offer landlords multiple restaurant concepts. Franchisees, meanwhile, will also get operations support from Markel and his team.

“Anyone that comes in under my brand, I’ll teach them to take that customer experience to another level,” he says. “And that has great impact on the numbers.”

Citing Jersey Mike’s founder Peter Cancro’s focus on community involvement and annual Month of Giving effort, “which really resonated with me,” Markel says he extends that mindset to his team to ultimately boost customer retention.

“It’s my passion and caring about the experience of everyone that comes in,” he says. “I will help train them to train their staff and get them to look at the business like that.”

Quick Hits

Schlotzsky’s Austin Eatery inked a 10-unit franchise development agreement with a LG2 Restaurant Group, a group of veteran Dairy Queen franchisees who will open Schlotzky’s restaurants in select markets in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

Mutts Canine Cantina, a concept combining a dog park and restaurant, signed its first multi-unit franchise deal for Austin, Texas. Franchisees Darrell and Laura Landers and Lisa Ladewig of K9 Entertainment will open three locations over the next three years.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh signed an agreement with Derek St. George and Karl Schmidt and Leigha Schmidt, to bring five restaurants to Boston.

Honor Yoga will expand into Florida after signing an agreement with Kelley Kiernan for three studios. Kiernan, a registered dietitian and practicing yogi, will open the first location in Naples this spring.

Blaze Pizza signed a deal with multi-concept franchisees Smit Shah and Prachee Patel to bring 10 restaurants to the Dallas-Fort Worth metro over the next five years. The two have multiple Tropical Smoothie Cafes, Bahama Buck’s and Subways.

Mamoun’s Falafel signed an eight-unit franchise deal with Ali and Munira Yusufaly for exclusivity in Ventura and Los Angeles counties in Southern California.

Retro Fitness signed a three-unit deal with franchisee Vinod Chand to develop locations in the New York markets of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County. Chand is a multi-unit and multi-brand ‘zee with KFC/Taco Bell locations across Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

California Tortilla inked three multi-unit franchise deals for the development of 13 total restaurants in three states. Maulik Patel will open five locations of the fast-casual Mexican concept in Virginia Beach, Virginia, while Hiren Bhagat will bring five units to Atlanta, Georgia, and Mark Poling will open three in Wichita, Kansas.

Deal Tracker is the place to find news of multi-unit development agreements, brought to you by Editor Laura Michaels. Want more? Sign up for the semi-monthly e-newsletter at franchisetimes.com/e-newsletter. To share your brand’s multi-unit deals, email details to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com

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