Q&A | Phil Petrilli, Taim CEO Eastern Mediterranean fast casual debuts Dupont Circle location Eastern Mediterranean restaurant chain Taim opened a new Dupont Circle location in Washington, DC September 10. Known for its falafel, kebabs, cauliflower shawarma, mezze, and humus with street food inspiration, the fast-casual chain continues to expand, already having four locations in New York City and the existing DC spot in the Georgetown Business District. Taim is also growing its menu, with new bowls on rice flavored with cumin seeds and hummus. Hear from Taim’s CEO Phil Petrilli on opening a second DC restaurant while managing business during the COVID-19 crisis. District Restaurant News: Please tell us about the opening and how business is doing so far. Phil Petrilli: We opened the restaurant officially on September 10th, but the day before we held a fundraiser to support some of the fantastic outreach programs that the Dupont Circle Farmers Market supports. In this specific case, we raised money for a program that buys fresh food from the market vendors and distributes it to child care centers and senior care organizations, thereby supporting those most in need, both generally and now even more so. We really didn’t know what to expect given the current environment. We were blown away, as were the folks from Freshfarm who operate the market, by the number of people who came out to support. Since our official launch on the 10th, we are actually exceeding the projections we had set prior to opening. Our expectations were moderate, given that so many of the offices and businesses around us are still closed and that a lot of the residents left in the early part of the pandemic and haven’t yet returned. DRN: Compare opening your second restaurant in DC to your other openings; does it seem harder or easier as you add more units? Also, how has it been impacted by the pandemic?
Fast-casualTaim expanded its menu with cumin-flavored Rice Bowls. Photo by Taim.
Ha - good question. Operationally, it was a lot easier as we were able to provide opportunities for staff from our first restaurant to move up and assume more responsibility, along with the benefits of doing so. About 1/3 of our staff came from our original Georgetown location, so we opened with a team who already knew how to perfectly prepare and serve our amazing food and take care of our guests’ needs. It was also easier from a brand introduction perspective, in that we are not a newbie in town this time around. People have gotten to know us in Georgetown - or knew us from New York City and now live in the area - and this has helped a lot. I would say the impact from the pandemic is evident mostly in two areas: 1) There are fewer people in the area now than there were seven months ago. With so many offices closed—you really feel the emptiness in the streets during the daytime especially. 2) People still are not venturing out much. District Restaurant News 23