How Tender Greens Turned Its Suppliers Into Investors The growing fast-casual chain Tender Greens used ingenuity, deal-making and vision to build a new kind of supply chain.
In 2003, before "fast casual" became restaurant industry buzzwords, Erik Oberholtzer, Matt Lyman and David Dressler had an idea: combine high-end ingredients with fast-food efficiency. They bet that this would differentiate their company, Tender Greens, and customers would be willing to pay a little extra for quality food.
Sourcing those premium ingredients would be complicated, though. Most quick-service restaurants use large distributors, which source from a network of farms and wholesalers -- a strategy designed to maximize scale efficiency. But those networks generally don't include the chef-to-farmer relationship -- and higher-quality ingredients -- Tender Greens wanted.