Peter Kambitsis and Elias Kalogiros already knew a lot about healthy dining concepts, having launched a successful Forest Hills juice bar in 2008 for health conscious patrons. But, when it came time to open Freshark Juice Bar & Grill in Rockville Centre, they decided to take a fresh look at how the community defined “healthy.”
“I bagged at the supermarket for free one day, just to see how people were purchasing food,” said Kambitsis. “I got to see a lot of brown rice and quinoa going into the bags. People were educated. They were picking up flax and chia seeds.”
Kambitsis and Kalogiros invited feedback from their 50 most loyal customers and sought out the advice of nutritionists and personal trainers to design the optimal menu – and recruited Mark Sarro as culinary advisor and director of operations.
“Everyone has a different definition of healthy,” says Kalogiros. The input they gathered helped them design an optimal menu packed with protein, fiber-rich grains, vitamins, antioxidants and flavor – and craft a commitment to deliver made-to-order, freshly prepared meals under 500 calories to customers in four minutes or less.
The carefully curated menu serves up super foods and healthy food options morning into evening, including breakfast wraps and omelets, fresh squeezed fruit juices and smoothies, salads, rice bowls and protein rich grilled entrées. Popular items include Sweet Potato Power Cakes, served with egg whites, turkey bacon and agave syrup and Baked Apple Salad, with baby spinach grape tomatoes, craisins, and gorgonzola cheese drizzled with fresh pressed Macintosh balsamic reduction. There are “grab and run” snacks such as Protein Power Balls, made with peanut butter, raw oats, granola and dark chocolate, and a selection of smoothies like the Protein Blast, a silky blend of banana, peanut butter, agave and almond milk.
Choice is a key ingredient. Freshark customers can “build your own plate” by picking proteins, dressing and sides, and mix and match a variety of healthy ingredients. “There are options for every definition of healthy,” says Kalogiros.
Even the restaurant name was created with the customer in mind. Kambitsis explains that the word “fresh” stands for the product, and “shark” evokes the patron, “a very smart, constantly moving, health-conscious eater.”
The team is committed to sourcing from local “mom and pop” businesses – everything from locally grown wheat grass, to Puck’s, a sugar cane craft soda made in New Jersey. “We’re small too, so it’s fun to see everybody grow together,” says Kambitsis.
They will launch a second Freshark on the East Side of Manhattan in mid-September and the team is targeting additional franchise opportunities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as well as options in Kansas City and Florida.
Kambitsis says he’s often asked about the secret to Freshark’s success. “There is no secret,” he replies. “People – that’s our secret ingredient.”