Seven Fast Casual Chains Satisfying Columbus Appetites

Seven Fast Casual Chains Satisfying Columbus Appetites

Seven Fast Casual Chains Satisfying Columbus Appetites 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

It’s widely known that Columbus is a test market for some of the restaurant industry’s biggest legacy brands like Wendy’s and White Castle, but it’s also serving as a hotbed of growth for fast casual chains. Recently Restaurant Business put together, The Future 50, a list fueled by Technomic data of the country’s fastest-growing small chains. With seven of those restaurants residing in Columbus, we set out to fill our stomachs and find out what’s put them on the list.

CoreLife Eatery

CoreLife Eatery Exterior
CoreLife Eatery Menu

23 locations / $22 million in 2017 sales

CoreLife Eatery launched in 2015 positioned as an “active lifestyle restaurant” serving up scratch-made meals for health-conscious consumers. With an extensive menu, customers can select from the signature menu items of green, grain, and broth-based bowls, or if they’re confident enough they can create their own. Taking a strong position on clean, nutritious foods, all of the ingredients are free of GMO’s, trans fats, artificial colors, sweeteners and artificial additives, produce is sustainably raised and antibiotic and hormone free, and they strive to source locally.

CoreLife Eatery Seating Area
CoreLife Eatery Dining Area

Within the space, the bright, vibrant colors create energy before you’re even read to eat. Graphic communications throughout reinforce encouragement for an active lifestyle with messages like “Get in the game. Life isn’t a spectator sport,” and “Your health is the harmony of mind, body, and spirit.” Fresh vegetables serve as a prominent beacon behind the food prep table showcasing the very ingredients that bring the meals to life.

When the CoreLife team isn’t busy serving up substance they’re active in health-related community events and proactively speaking about the subject of health and wellness at local organizations. Reaching even more communities with its philosophy “change your lunch, change your life,” the fast casual chain plans to expand to 300 locations over the next five years.

Bibibop Asian Grill  

Bibibop Exterior
Bibibop Interior

25 locations / $23 million in 2017 sales

In 2013 founder Charley Shin, paid homage to his heritage and his grandmother’s recipe with the launch of Bibibop Asian Grill. Inspired by the traditional Korean rice dish bibimbap, the chain proves fast and healthy doesn’t have to be boring with their bold flavors. Described within the industry as an Asian take on Chipotle, Bibibop’s assembly line setup lets customers build their own salad, rice, and noodle bowl creations topped with proteins, vegetables, and sauces. The restaurant’s signature purple “forbidden” rice, might be new for some but it’s actually an ancient Chinese superfood filled with antioxidants.

Bibibop Interior
Bibibop Seating Area

The chains commitment to bringing “WELL B•ING” goes beyond just the food though. Here you won’t find prepackaged foods, freezers, microwaves, or fryers, everything is chopped, sliced, diced, and grilled onsite and prepared to order.

Overall the space feels young, fresh, and approachable with a clean, minimal, modern design. Wall graphics focus on a healthy food image and mission. Communal tables and booths are surrounded by colors of crisp whites, neutral tones, and the occasional pop of orange.

Targeting the Millennial market with adventurous palates the bold concept seems to be appealing to all. Aside from absorbing ShopHouse (Chipotle’s failed Asian kitchen concept) locations, the fast casual brand continues on with its aggressive expansion plans.

Piada Italian Street Food

Piada Italian Street Food Interior
Piada Italian Street Food

42 locations / $40 million in 2017 sales

First opened 2010, founder Chris Doody was inspired by food carts on the streets of Rimni, Italy to create Piada. Getting its name from the piadine, a thin Italian flatbread often stuffed with cheeses, meats, or vegetables, Doody felt like it was a concept easily translated to our American culture with a sense of authenticity.

Piada Italian Street Food Interior
Piada Italian Street Food Bowl

Piada brings all the richness of Italian street style food with an added level of sophistication to build-your-own. Piadas are stone warmed, salads are tossed, and pastas are sauced all right in front of you. While the open kitchen design might be a common design element for fast casual restaurants today, Piada’s model operates slightly differently as they’re run by a chef rather than a manager. Everything is made in-house, even sauces from scratch.

With a modern, European inspired décor the environment is unapologetically simple. With a heavy emphasis on wood, marble, brushed aluminum, painted brick, and subway tiles are subtle accents to the experience—a place to enjoy your food and conversation.

Melt Bar & Grilled

Melt Bar & Grilled
Melt Bar & Grilled Interior

13 locations / $21 million in 2017 sales

Maybe one of the oldest, fast-growing concepts on this list is Melt Bar & Grilled. Launched in 2006 in Cleveland, OH, founder Matt Fish created a concept he considers “comfort food dressed up” with top-quality, local ingredients. Today thousands of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, from “The Cowabunga” to “The Dude Abides,” are served every day.

Melt Bar & Grilled Signage
Melt Bar & Grilled Bar

The eccentric nature of the Melt menu is easily mirrored within the space. An eclectic mix of music memorabilia, photography, cartoon murals, and collectibles like those 70’s illuminated lawn ornaments send a clear message of fun. The energy is big and your appetite should be too!

Pies & Pints

Pies & Pints Exterior
Pies & Pints Wall Mural

14 locations / $40 million in 2017 sales

Pizza is one of the hottest fast casual categories and topping this list is up and coming Pies & Pints. As the name suggests it’s all about gourmet pizzas and craft beers. Grape & Gorgonzola, Sriracha Shrimp, and Pine & Swine are just a few of the chain’s specialty pies that will have you salivating just by reading the description. With 36 taps (almost 20 of those Ohio beers) there’s plenty for you to wash it down with as you indulge.

Pies & Pints Bar
Pies & Pints Dining Area

If you’ve been to more than one Pies & Pints, you’ll recognize the restaurant’s signature white elephant mural. A mark discovered in the original location has since been carried through to the rest of the chain. With polished concrete floors, metal chairs, exposed brick, and heavy wood accents the space feels industrial yet warm with an intimate layout. The bar is a strong focal upon entering, but make no mistake the pies are just as important as the pints.


Bakersfield Exterior
Bakersfield Interior

8 locations / $27 million in 2017 sales

Presenting authentic, Mexican street fare, Bakersfield is all about tacos, tequila, and whiskey. With an affordable price point, customers have the luxury of sampling a few if they’re not full after the ample chips and house-made salsas.

Bakersfield Seating
Bakersfield Tacos

Reclaimed woods and exposed Edison bulb lighting are complimented by warm tones and deep rustic red hues giving the space a welcoming, modern saloon-like aesthetic. With horse hitching posts and adjacent booths surrounding the prominent bar, you get the feel that you can just stop in or stay for a while. And if Johnny Cash tunes aren’t emanating the space, there might be an old western to watch on TV. Regardless of your length of stay or what you plan to eat, saddle up because this one’s a real treat.

Teriyaki Madness

Teriyaki Madness Exterior
Teriyaki Madness Menu

42 locations / $29 million in 2017 sales

With an initial launch in 2003, it’s taken some time for this Asian fusion to make its fast casual way to Columbus. Worth the wait, this Seattle style Teriyaki menu packs a punch in flavor. With fresh ingredients and a made-to-order menu, you’ll feel the growing industry madness around this fast growing concept. The chain features beef, chicken, and tofu bowls with steamed or stir-fried vegetables served with a choice of noodles, white, brown or fried rice with a choice of sauces like Katsu, Gyoza, or Teriyaki (of course) for topping.

Teriyaki Madness Seating Area
Teriyaki Madness Bowl

The environment is relatively simple, but approachable for even the most reserved palates. With a selection of junior, regular, or large portion sizes, there’s something to appease every appetite, not to mention the appetizers of potstickers, eggrolls, edamame to fend off the initial hunger.

With a franchise focus, Teriyaki Madness lets its owners add a personal touch—the quote wall. Ours, a comical quote from Parks and recreation’s Ron Swanson, “When I eat it is the food that is scared.”

Fast casual is a bright spot in the industry, but make no mistake, it’s highly competitive. To balance early entry into the fast casual industry with plans for expansion, a careful strategy is critical.

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