Zak Yancey, owner of Neo Burrito, admits he's interested in showing off — but in a good way.
He's planning a new Neo Burrito at the Reynolds Village development in Woodfin, and it promises to be a little more exhibitionistic than his other two restaurants in West Asheville and Biltmore Park.
The Woodfin spot will feature a large, open kitchen where the staff will prep the ingredients for all four stores. (In May, Yancey announced plans for a location in the Whole Foods-anchored development coming to Tunnel Road in September 2014.) The open commissary should give diners a better idea of where their food comes from, Yancey hopes.
"We're trying to take everything that we do in the restaurant and make it ourselves," he says. "So if we sell a bottled water product, we say, 'How can we do this better?' and instead of selling plastic, maybe we'll sell glass."
Taking control of the restaurant's supply chain means farming and gardening; accordingly, the company has purchased a 31-acre farm in Jupiter. "This farm is going to be essentially catfish farm with a lot of chickens and hogs," he says. "We're not real experienced catfish farmers, but we weren't any good at restaurants before we got into them."
He also plans to manufacture catfish feed using scraps from the restaurants. "We're going to try to take all of this food waste in refrigerated trucks, process it there, feed it to the animals," he says. He's also experimenting with food for cats, dogs and chickens.
Through the animal-feed program, Yancey will execute his "all taste, no waste" motto. He's finding other ways to make efficient use of resources in the restaurant. At the Biltmore Park location, he's installed solar panels and toilets that flush with rain water. The Woodfin location will include reclaimed wood, recycled furnishings, solar panels, garden space and other environmentally friendly innovations.
"We're going to use all the materials to make it as low-impact as possible," he says. "As much as we can, we're going to make it as efficient as possible."
The new restaurant also will serve as a classroom. Yancey plans to host groups of school children for tours of the garden and catfish-feeding demonstrations.
For even more visibility, Neo Burrito will launch a fleet of food buses and burrito cars.
The converted school buses will operate like food trucks, preparing food to order. The cars will have a more limited presence, appearing at the times and places when burrito cravings are most likely to strike. So a Neo mobile might appear outside of a music venue with 100 pre-made burritos to sell to hungry concertgoers.
Watch for the Neo developments within a year, Yancey says. The Woodfin location should open by early May. The Tunnel Road store will launch on the same day as Whole Foods in early September. Watch for the burrito buses and cars around that same time.
For more information about Neo Burrito, visit neoburrito.com.