We’re happiest when we’re sharing our food, our culture, our vibes, with others. And we couldn’t do that without every one of our CAVA team members. It’s a fanaticism that can’t be faked – it’s a passion we just have to share.
So we’re hearing straight from our team about how they savor life – not just while they’re on the clock, but (perhaps even more importantly) while they’re off it.
Today we’re hearing from Parker, our West Coast Real Estate Manager. Parker has been based with our East Coast team for the past year or so, but soon he’ll be headed across the country to lead our Southern California charge as we put down roots in Los Angeles, Orange County, and beyond. Hear from Parker on travel, his sneaky golf skills, and his grandma’s top-secret biscuit recipe:
Tell us about what you do for the CAVA team.
I handle finding new locations and figuring out which cities we go to in the US. My previous job was on the opposite side of the table, working with landlords. I was responsible for finding restaurants to go into company centers — my job was to find the next generation of cool restaurants. CAVA became one of those hot new restaurants for me, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the team.
How do you approach selecting potential locations for new CAVA restaurants?
We’ve had a lot of success in the DC area, so we look for a lot of similarities in some of the larger cities across the country. From there, we analyze competitors, demographics, psychographic information. And then we look at a lot of different cities and see where we can meaningfully enter the market and provide good, healthy food in the right areas.
The real estate team is visiting each city we’re considering regularly, but in addition to that our CEO, Brett Schulman, also visits every single site we’re seriously considering. We take a very hands-on approach.Any surprises?
We’ve looked at some very unique, old buildings where we may not be able to have our electrical capacity, or our gas capacity, that kind of thing — buildings that were built in the late 1800s or 1900s. Older buildings have a lot of character, but definitely make for a lot of work. Sometimes those interesting old buildings are the absolute best sites though, because they bring a lot of character and personality to the location.
What’s your proudest moment in your work?
Seeing the end product. Most things in my role in the real estate team are decided 12 to 18 months out.
When I see a restaurant open where we were beginning the discussions or decisions on that location or that region almost a year or a year-and-a-half beforehand, that’s really special.
Food has been in my life for a long time. My grandma owned a café in central California, and I’ve always had memories of growing up around food. My brother is in the business as a cook in Dallas; my dad’s been in the business. I started working in restaurants at a young age, and I knew I always wanted to be around it in some shape or form.
What have you learned from your experiences working in restaurants?
I learned that there’s a craft to it. Food is instinctive and it draws out a lot of passion in people.
I trained with our Tenleytown restaurant team when I first started. It gave me perspective on how what we’re doing is ultimately about serving our restaurants and supporting the people who make them successful.
The hardest part was the crazy lines that we got every single day. You’ll think you’re almost done and then hour after hour people keep coming. But the best part was connecting with the team members, really getting to sit down for a family meal with them and talk. To hear more from them and also to share more of what my team is doing to grow CAVA.What’s something a lot of people don’t know about you?
I’ve been very transient throughout my life. I have lived in quite a few different cities — six different cities in the past five or six years. I don’t really have a home — but I’ve loved every minute of it. It has given me the opportunity to see so many different parts of the country.
What’s next on your must-visit list?
There are so many places I want to see in the US, but I also really want to visit Iceland and Japan. Japan for food, obviously, and Iceland for the scenery and all the outdoor activities.What drives you?
Being aware of opportunities. And understanding that this is the time in life to be able to make opportunistic decisions.
It’s been a super unique opportunity to be able to come to the East Coast and spend the past year with the CAVA team. I’ve had such a blast with all the smart individuals at CAVA. I definitely focus on seeing opportunities and seizing them as they come along.
What are you passionate about?
I love spending time outdoors, visiting national and state parks, whether on the East or the West Coast. I spend a lot of my time in cities and evaluating buildings – it’s nice to get outside and spend time with nature. I love hiking, and rock climbing as well. I’m an avid rock climber in the gym setting and also outdoors. It’s a really fun way to rejoin nature.
What’s your favorite spot for climbing?
Definitely Joshua Tree for climbing. As it relates to hiking, there are a few that are on my bucket list — Grand Teton, the Grand Canyon, and Mount Whitney in Southern California. But I would have to say Mount Rainier is the one that stands out the most.Any favorite food memories?
I think of being young and starting to learn about food in my Grandma’s café — making biscuits and scones and all that good stuff. My favorite was her biscuit recipe. She taught me that it’s really about not being so precise or prescriptive — it’s about having fun with it and trying new things to see what works.
What’s the secret to great biscuits?
She told me, but there’s no way I’m telling you.
What’s the biggest thing you learned from your grandmother?
Absolutely cooking. She had a unique outlook on life though, too. Going back to what I said about seizing opportunities — she was really well traveled and had a great outlook on life.What’s your hidden talent?
I am a very good golfer. I’ve played golf all my life. I grew up in Arizona and I played two times on a US national team in China. I played throughout college. That’s kind of my unique skill.
What’s your go-to CAVA order?
Arugula and lentils. Hummus, harissa. I really like the falafel. And then lots of toppings, whatever they may be. I really love the banana peppers and the cabbage slaw. Green Harissa was an awesome addition to the menu. And then I love the Green Apple Fennel juice mixed with some soda water. That’s a great way to mix it up a little.
What has you most excited about your move out to the West Coast?
I’m ecstatic to get to California. We see a lot of similarities between LA and Orange County — where we already have a few locations — and other markets in Southern California, where we see potential future customers.
We are looking to grow and hope people will stay tuned to see where we’re heading next!