Tender Greens, the cheffed-up, California-based fast casual chain that debuted in NYC in 2018, has exited the city during the pandemic. The chain, which once had big expansion plans across the city, operated two locations at its peak, catering to office workers in Flatiron and Bryant Park. Both locations were vacated last summer, according to the owner of Cutlets, a sandwich spot that took over the Flatiron location, and a representative for the landlord at Bryant Park.
Like many other fast casual chains in Manhattan, Tender Greens catered to office crowds with a menu that revolved around soups, salads, sandwiches, and other quick lunch fare. But it cultivated a reputation as a step above its chain competition in part due to the way it was set up: Executive chefs with fine dining experience led each kitchen and fine-tuned each menu, according to the company.
Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group threw its weight behind Tender Greens in 2015, taking an undisclosed “significant minority investment” in the fast casual chain, and helping to build its East Coast expansion plans. Meyer still sits on the company’s board, according to USHG.
The chain drew some critical praise after it landed in NYC, with the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo deeming it a “lunch salad spot that doesn’t suck” and Eater critic Ryan Sutton finding its version of a fried chicken sandwich easily able to compete against Shake Shack and David Chang’s fried chicken chain Fuku. The company boasted early on that Tender Greens may eventually grow to 15 locations across the city.
However, similar to many of its fast casual counterparts, Tender Greens apparently wasn’t able to survive the mid-pandemic loss of Manhattan office crowds. Tender Greens did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
The office exodus has hit many lunch chains hard. According to the Center for an Urban Future’s annual report on chain store growth in NYC, the amount of chain stores in Manhattan — including retail and restaurants — shrunk by nearly 20 percent in the past year. Dig Inn closed 19 locations, according to the report, while sandwich spot Pret a Manger closed 16 stores. Le Pain Quotidien and Maison Kayser both filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. and sold off their NYC locations. Vegan chain By Chloe declared bankruptcy late last year.
In contrast to other chains, salad spot Sweetgreen gained five locations in the NYC area over the past year, according to the report. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the chain’s mid-pandemic growth trajectory in the city.
Tender Greens no longer has an East Coast presence, according to its website, but continues to operate 27 locations across California.