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San Diego’s Best Restaurants 2014

February 2014

For San Diego-based restaurant operator Premier Food Concepts LLC, the recipe for growth is a careful blending of healthy menu items, strategic site selections and patience.

The company opened its first Luna Grill restaurant in 2004 and chose not to expand beyond its initial Carmel Valley site until 2010. It recently opened its 11th restaurant, in Poway, and its location count is expected to nearly double by year’s end as it expands into suburban Dallas — marking its first foray outside Southern California. “We see Dallas as a good place to test out this concept in terms of what’s already out there in that market,” said CEO and co-founder Sean Pourteymour, whose fast-casual eateries serve Mediterranean-style items like kebabs, sandwiches and wraps. Premier currently employs 300, and that number is expected to reach 500 by year’s end once the company has 20 stores operating, Pourteymour said. The company has set a goal to have 40 locations operating by the end of 2016.

To oversee expansion, Premier last year brought in industry veteran Dan Lowe, formerly with Chipotle Mexican Grill, as operations manager. It is also hiring its first director of real estate to supervise vetting and acquisition of locations.

The company has tinkered over the years with its menu and service mix, and officials believe Premier’s health-oriented focus can transfer well beyond San Diego and Orange counties, where the restaurants are presently concentrated. Preferred locations for the restaurants — all company-run, not franchised — are those that enable the company to draw from the local neighborhood and commercial business centers, in order to keep lunch and dinner traffic steady throughout the week. “We get the families, but we also get the bodybuilders coming in because they want to eat healthy,” Pourteymour said.

Gradually Getting Lenders to Look Pourteymour oversees the restaurants with his wife, co-founder Maria Pourteymour, who is the privately held company’s “chief cuisine officer.” The CEO said Premier has been careful in choosing new locations that don’t cannibalize sales from one another and that serve distinct geographic and demographic segments.

Company revenue topped $11.3 million in 2013, up 35 percent from the prior year, he said. Rising sales and a generally improving consumer climate have helped it obtain financing to support upcoming growth, including a line of credit it recently secured from Argent Bank, a subsidiary of Sterling Financial Corp.

The credit line will increase from its current $2.5 million to about $5.5 million by the time Premier completes its 2014 expansion program, with the potential to be raised further as needed.