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Troubled Austin chain rescued by elite California restaurant group

Troubled Austin chain rescued by elite California restaurant group

Noon Mediterranean
Noon Mediterranean will soon become Daphne's. Noon Mediterranean/ Facebook

Maybe the third time will be the charm for the former Vert’s Kabap. The Austin-born fast casual chain has had trouble in recent years, first rebranding to Noon Mediterranean in November 2017 before filing for bankruptcy protection in August.

Now new owners Elite Restaurant Group hopes melding the concept with its Daphne’s Mediterranean brand will help it live on.

The buyout deal, first announced in an October release, will see all existing Noon locations — including the six in Austin — convert to Daphne’s. According to a company rep, the Houston and Dallas locations will start converting in the middle of January 2019 with the Austin shops following at the end of the month.

Although the California-based Daphne’s follows a traditional counter service model, it is keeping the assembly line format for the reworked Noon stores. “We are looking to turn these units into hybrid stores, where we will keep Noon’s build-you-own bowls,” said Elite Restaurant Group president Michael Nakhleh in a release. “However, we will enhance the customer’s experience by including Daphne’s signature bowls.”

With bowl offerings like hummus, tzatziki, pita, and grilled meats, and basmati rice, those bowls aren’t too different from Noon’s selections, but does add more sauces and fresh vegetable options to the mix.

Founded by University of Texas alumni Michael Heyne and Dominik Sten, Verts was once listed as one of America’s hottest restaurant brands by CNBC. But a series of missteps, including rapid expansion and menu changes, caused the business to falter.

Prior to the Noon rebrand, the chain closed 11 Texas locations including four in Austin. The name switch also proved to be problematic. The chain’s CEO, Stefan Boyd, told trade publication Restaurant Business that it was rushed to the point where the restaurant had to wait three months to change the signage at some units while seeking permits.

Whether the new ownership and third name change will revitalize the beleaguered brand remains to be seen. In Austin, Daphne’s will face a more crowded fast Mediterranean scene since Verts’ debut in 2011. Local eateries like MezzeMe have since opened with a similar concept and Washington D.C.’s Cava has made a major push locally with two locations already opened and two more on the way.