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Ryan Burnet Sees Growth Opportunity in Crisp & Green

Crisp & Green moves into what was Sapor Café at Washington and Fifth avenues in Minneapolis.

Ryan Burnet’s list of priorities goes like this: “I balance family first, then the restaurants and then Fighting Chance.”

That family is growing, both Burnet’s and that of his restaurant company, LCB Hospitality. His wife Amber is pregnant with twins (they already have a 4-year-old daughter) and he’s opened three restaurants in the past six months to go along with Barrio, Bar La Grassa, Burch and Eastside. 

Sitting at the community table inside Crisp & Green North Loop, Ryan Burnet says he envisions several more locations of the fast-casual restaurant. 

It’s enough to make anyone else sigh with exhaustion, but Burnet’s boundless energy is evident as he surveys the bustling lunchtime crowd at Crisp & Green North Loop, the second location of his new fast-casual, health-focused concept. The first, in downtown Wayzata, opened in November 2016; this newest spot on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis followed in March, taking up residence in the former Sapor Café space.

“This is a place I would go to multiple times a week, that’s the idea,” he says, as Crisp & Green’s menu of salads and grain bowls has lunch and dinner appeal while the smoothies—all vegan and gluten free—are ideal as after-workout fuel or an afternoon snack. There’s also a “Club Crisp” loyalty program to reward frequent diners, with online ordering coming soon.

Crisp & Green is well positioned to capitalize on changing consumer attitudes toward health and wellness, which market research firm NPD Group reports have evolved beyond dieting and exercise as consumers look for “personal plans that meet their own specific interests, and more importantly, their lifestyles,” says Darren Seifer, NPD’s food and beverage industry analyst. 

From an eating behavior standpoint, this lifestyle is about organic, or non-genetically modified items, Seifer says.

The counter-service style of Crisp & Green is a model that’s working immediately, says Burnet, yielding sales and strong volumes, enable us to grow a lot more quickly.”

Although he declined to share any sales figures, Burnet says, “We’ve had a great first few months in Wayzata and the North Loop location is performing well, well enough to convince us that we can grow this a lot more quickly than we thought.”

Looking out from the Shea Inc.-designed dining room at Station Pizzeria, where garage doors open to a wrap-around patio.

Burnet and his team, which includes Crisp & Green Culinary Director Bill Fairbanks (who also serves as VP of operations for Barrio), have already identified additional sites for development in the Twin Cities. In the meantime, Burnet also has Station Pizzeria to keep him busy (busier?). 

Since its January debut in a former gas station in Minnetonka, Burnet says Station Pizzeria has proved he and his partners were right that “the market out there was ripe for a concept like this.” 

“There were literally no pizza restaurants in that area,” says Clark Gassen, a Minneapolis real estate developer and friend of Burnet’s who brought the opportunity to the restaurateur. For six years Gassen says he and his wife lived two blocks away from the property at 13008 Minnetonka Blvd., “and I always said if this place ever comes up for sale I’m going to buy it and call Ryan.”

“Ryan’s a friend and I trust him and he’s one of the best restaurateurs in town,” Gassen says. “He’s got a really sound team around him—they execute on his vision and they get things done.”

Chef David Ellis created the menu, which includes pizzas such as The Don (sausage, giardiniera, shiitake mushrooms) and the Midwesterner (prosciutto, potato, gruyere, rosemary cream, kale). 

Gassen was also an early supporter of that third item on Burnet’s priority list: Fighting Chance, a nonprofit youth boxing club Burnet and retired Minneapolis cop Victor Mills created and that Burnet now runs out of a former fire station in the Folwell neighborhood of North Minneapolis. The station’s kitchen was just renovated and several of Burnet’s restaurants deliver donated meals as part of the club’s mission to “effect positive change in North Minneapolis through boxing and physical fitness.”

It’s that project, not being a restaurant owner, for which Burnet says he’d rather be known.

“I can’t believe how fortunate I am to spend time there with these kids,” he says. It’s one of the best feelings of anything I’ve ever done. I love the restaurant business, the people I’m working with, but my family and Fighting Chance are what drive me.”  

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