January 06, 2009 // Franchising.com // Washington, D.C., — Vapiano, the innovative fast casual restaurant and lounge, has hired a complete Management team for operations in the U.S. Vapiano Chairman, Kent Hahne, sees this as the best and most efficient way to truly expand the concept throughout the U.S. This August, Vapiano won Nation's Restaurant News' 2008 'Hot Concept!' award, proving that the concept has staying power in the U.S. and has already had a huge impact on the industry in its short time in the country. In the US, Vapiano has four restaurants currently open and more than 30 in development.
"Many American companies fail in Europe because they simply transport their U.S. systems and employees and let them build their concepts exactly the way they are in the U.S., thinking one size fits all throughout the whole world. We know better from our days with McDonalds that you have to listen carefully to see what works best in each country," says Kent Hahn, Vapiano President and Founder. "I wanted to steer clear of that with Vapiano and be sure that I hired a reliable and experienced U.S. team with high volume restaurant experience to adjust the concept and make it fit here in the U.S. The team we have in place has helped us achieve 20% same store sales growth."
Vapiano's new management team has impressive credentials. The team will be lead by new CEO, Bill Bessette, who began his career in the restaurant industry working with Outback Steakhouse and worked his way to Director of Operations for Legal Sea Food in 2004 overseeing 10 restaurants. 10 restaurants turned into 32 when Bessette accepted the position of Sr. Vice President of Operations for Legal Sea Foods and their other concepts. Bessette's experience is invaluable for Vapiano and will be a great addition to Vapiano USA. The rest of the team includes Phil Hill, Laurette Farmer and Marcos Rodriquez, all of whom have excellent restaurant industry experience as well. Hill came to Vapiano from a Regional Director position at Legal Sea Food and will now act as Vice President of Operations. Farmer previously worked with Potbelly Sandwich Works and Rodriquez spent four years as a Chef at Legal Sea Food.
Currently Vapiano International operates nearly 45 restaurants in fourteen countries and expects to open 44 to 55 new locations by the end of 2009. In the U.S. alone the company has closed deals for six stores in Southwest Florida, ten in Dallas, two in San Jose, five in Houston and three stores in Boston, Detroit and Atlanta. New international locations are in the making throughout Mexico, Australia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia and France. Open international locations include 26 in Germany, two in Holland and Hungary and one in Belgium, Estonia, London, The Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Poland, Turkey and the UAE.
Vapiano appeared in Fast Casual Magazine's 2008 list of 'Movers and Shakers' for the second year in a row and was named one of the top ten "Best Employers" in Germany for 2008. Vapiano President, Kent Hahne, was named a finalist for CMO of the Year by Booz Allen Hamilton in 2007. In 2006, Vapiano won the coveted European Hot Concept Award from Food Service Europe & Middle East.
Vapiano is an innovative, fast casual European concept serving made-to-order fire roasted pizzas, fresh, house-made pasta and hand tossed gourmet salads. Vapiano continues to garner global attention for their approach to dining – dishes are prepared at high temperature exhibition style wok stations, fresh herbs adorn each table and a unique chip card payment system rounds out each diner's ultra-modern experience. The restaurant's pioneering self-service technology and unmistakable upscale décor has created a huge customer fan base and helped fuel the company's worldwide expansion. Restaurants are 5,000-8,000 square feet and seat 180-220 guests.