Honest eating, locally grown

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Justin Rosenberg , founder and CEO of Honeygrow, is looking to expand his locally-sourced eatery.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Justin Rosenberg , founder and CEO of Honeygrow, is looking to expand his locally-sourced eatery.
Posted: June 27, 2013

J USTIN ROSENBERG, 31, of Wayne, is founder and chief executive of Honeygrow, a restaurant with locations in Center City and Bala Cynwyd. The name is shorthand for "honest eating, locally grown." The concept is healthy/fast/casual stir fry, salads and smoothies, with touch screens to help customers breeze through the menu. Rosenberg, who graduated from Penn State and has an MBA from Temple, wants to expand Honeygrow.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the business?

A: I was working as a financial analyst at [a real-estate company] in 2009 and was at a crossroads. I eat as local and healthy as possible and made a lot of salads and stir fry. I thought it would be cool to do that and combine it with a sleek look and great hospitality. I wrote up a business plan.

Q: How about raising money?

A: I went to 93 people before someone said yes. It was very humbling and frustrating.

Q: So whom were you able to persuade to invest in your concept?

A: I met a guy who introduced me to my current [business] partner, David Robkin. He's CEO of the Nashville-based Bigger Picture Group. David and I are the ones behind this. We also have a silent partner, Brook Lenfest. [Lenfest's father, businessman and philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, is a partner in Interstate General Media, which owns the Daily News, the Inquirer and Philly.com.]

Q: When did the two Honeygrow locations open?

A: We opened on 16th near Sansom in June 2012, and on City Avenue in Bala in January 2013.

Q: How is Honeygrow different from others in the healthy/fast/casual food space?

A: We try to find good people. I like to hire artists. They care about their product, and we train them to fit in with the team. We want people who are outgoing, self-disciplined, ready to rock. We cook everything ourselves, we make the salads, the dressing, the sauces. We cook the chicken, pork and beef, so there's no B.S. behind what we do.

Q: Who are your patrons?

A: People who want something that's quick and wholesome. People who come [to the 16th Street location] enjoy salads, typically a healthy salad. They may come after a workout; they may work on Market Street. Those who come at night live nearby. In Bala, you have a lot of St. Joe's students, people from Bala and West Philly.

Q: What's a meal cost here?

A: We spent a lot of time figuring out what the right price point was. For $7.50, you can create your own stir fry: You get a fresh egg-white noodle, brown rice, three vegetables, chicken, two garnishes [shallots, cilantro, parsley], sauce, a drink for an extra buck and change plus tax for $10.

Q: How many employees?

A: Between both locations, probably about 65, and I'd say 80 percent are full time.

Q: What's next?

A: Our two places are exceeding initial [sales] projections. I've hired a director of operations, which allows me time to focus on branding and expansion.

On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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