Zak Yancey has harnessed the telescopic powers of the rolled tortilla to peer into the distance. The owner of Neo Burrito, is looking ahead for his business — way ahead.
“Our long-term goal is for national expansion,” he says. “If we were going to go national, and I can't imagine why we wouldn't — our plan is to fill up WNC.” It's a lofty goal, but it might not be so far out of reach.
Neo Burrito will become one of the tenants in the Whole Foods-anchored shopping center that's under development on Tunnel Road. Yancey hopes for future neighborly relations with the natural foods chain. “We have a lot of the same values as far as how we treat our customers,” he says. “We think the demographic we're looking for is very similar to Whole Foods.”
Whole Foods works with EDENS, a development company that scouts locations and renovates buildings with the store in mind. If EDENS and Neo hit it off,Yancey hopes other deals and sites. “This location could be really special,” Yancey says.
He plans to open the store in September of 2014, around the same time Whole Foods hosts its grand opening.
Yancey gets excited about business (which seems to run in his family — his sister is Sarah Yancey of Smiling Hara Tempeh). He has ideas for new locations as well as new programs.
In June, he will unveil the All Taste, No Waste program, in which customers can pay for their California-style selections by weight. The standard menu will remain (although substitutions will not be allowed), but diners also will have the option to design their own meal and pay for it by the ounce. “We want to reduce [waste],” he says. “It's only to your advantage to design your own burrito and get as much or as little as you want and pay for it accordingly.”
He admits the pay-by-weight system seems a little daunting when you're talking about scales and ounces, but in practice, he says it will feel streamlined.
In the coming months, Neo Burrito could go mobile. The business has purchased a 40-foot bus to convert into a burrito kitchen. While it won't have a downtown presence until the city releases more permits for food trucks, Yancey says he has other locations throughout town in mind.
The burrito bus will get rolling once Yancey builds a kitchen to support it, he explains. For that project, he's eyeing the 3,880-square-foot space beneath the Woodfin YMCA in the Reynolds Village development.
Neo Burrito is still negotiating that lease, but Yancey says he feels confident the new location is a go. It would house a burrito restaurant, commissary (to prep items for all the Neo Burrito locations) and a small grocery store.
Check Xpress for updates on Neo Burrito’s growth. For more information about the restaurant, which has locations in West Asheville and Biltmore Park, see neoburrito.com.