California Centers

MAY 2017

California Centers Magazine serves retailers, developers, shopping center owners, investment sales brokers and tenant representation firms throughout the state of California.

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24 California Centers Magazine | May 2017 C C C alifornia has long enjoyed a reputation as the nation's "melting pot," where a vast array of cultures, countries and tradi- tions are embraced and shared among the masses. While the state still has a few ethnic enclaves and districts, such as San Francisco's and Los Angeles' Chinatown and Koreatown, these cul- tural influences have penetrated many neighborhoods for decades, allowing Californians to become familiar with dishes like tikka masala, ramen and poke. Thanks to the popularity of quick-service restaurants (QSRs), these exotic fares are no longer con- fined to fine dining establishments or bustling metro districts. Instead, they've been adapted to grab a larger portion of the restaurant pie. Many experts believe these ethnic concepts will be a perfect fit for the state's lat- est food service trend. "With each passing generation, more and more California QSRs with Asian, Indian or Mediterranean roots have opened up, so much so that they have become a normal part of today's food scene," says Trey Peckenpaugh, senior vice president of restaurants at Rouse Properties. "Millennials in general have embraced the healthy lifestyle, which has pushed some of the traditional American dining con- cepts to either adapt or risk losing market share to those that offer more appealing — and healthier — menu options with ethnic ingredients." The result is what may be consid- ered a perfect marriage. Ethnic food concepts already emphasize healthy, local ingredients, but add an exotic, authentic twist. The QSR approach emphasizes speed, affordability and customization that can cater to din- ers' exact tastes or dietary needs — including gluten-free, vegan-friendly, low-carb, high protein, etc. — giving QSRs a leg up on traditional restau- rants. And the proof is in the pud- ding. The total number of U.S. restau- rants fell by 2 percent between Feb- ruary 2016 and February 2017, ac- cording to the NPD Group's biannual study of U.S. commercial restaurants. The fast casual and QSR sector, how- ever, increased by 7 percent over that same period. ASIAN INFLUENCE In California, much of this QSR growth has roots in Southeast Asian cuisine. Curry Up Now opened its fifth Bay Area restaurant in Oakland this January after starting out as a food truck. Tava Indian Kitchen also recently expanded to three locations in the Bay Area and is now looking to expand into other Western states. Even one of the QSR kings, Adam Fleischman, founder of Umami Burg- er and co-founder of 800 Degrees Pizza, is jumping on the ethnic food bandwagon with the January open- ing of Ramen Roll, a ramen and sushi joint in Culver City. Then there's the poke craze. The raw fish salad Pacific Islanders have coveted for years has now become a favorite of the California cool. Con- cepts like Hoke Poke, OkiPoki, Poke- works, Poke Bar, Limu & Shoyu, Sweetfin Poke, Honeyfish Poke, Mainland Poke Shop, I'a Poke and Poke Go have popped up all over the state. From San Diego strip centers to ground-floor spaces in Silicon Valley apartment buildings and even food courts in the Valley, this raw fish dish seems to be hotter than ever. "Hawaiian poke is the latest trend Sweetfin is expanding in the state. Poke concepts can be flexible with space, since the nature of their cuisine means they don't need ovens or a lot of cooking equipment. FOREIGN EXCHANGE Ethnic food has always been a part of California's culinary scene, but now, thanks to the popularity of QSRs, the concept has reached new heights. By Nellie Day

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