CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – A popular family owned restaurant chain with locations throughout Western New York held its grand opening in Cheektowaga Friday morning.
State Senator Tim Kennedy and Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski helped restaurant owner Joseph Khoury cut the ribbon for the new Rachel’s Mediterranean location at 1526 Walden Avenue across from the Thruway Plaza.
Inside, team members were cooking up fresh lamb, beef and chicken on the grill while others helped prepare the orders for the first and second official customers – Supervisor Benczkowski and Senator Kennedy.
Ms. Benczkowski ordered the Chicken Souvlaki Salad Bowl.
“The trend is healthy, the décor is modern, and we’re hoping the Cheektowaga residents will support Rachel’s. It’s boosting our economy. It’s helping all the businesses around it, especially the workers who come into work daily. They will have a choice at least for lunch and dinner,” said Ms. Benczkowski.
Joseph Khoury owns the family chain which started on Main Street in Williamsville as a traditional restaurant in 2006. Mr. Khoury took the recipes his mother developed and grew the company to five locations throughout Western New York.
“That’s how authentic, that’s how homegrown this company is and by recognizing how delicious a product she made. I then took (the company) from a locally owned and operated restaurant and made it into a business by moving with the times and changing the process around to feed many more people on a daily basis than we were capable of in the past,” said Mr. Khoury.
The fast-casual concept employed at Rachel’s is a perfect marriage between speed, taste and eating healthy. The vegetables are fresh cut and the chicken, beef, and lamb – which are never frozen – is marinated, hand-cut and grilled to order.
The Walden Avenue location had a soft opening for the past three weeks. Without any of the pressure or fanfare of today’s grand opening the location was still able to pull in receipts that matched established locations.
“That says that the product is working. It says that the product is right. The great thing about my product is that it’s guilt free. You can eat here multiple times a week without feeling guilty about it,” added Mr. Khoury.
The new location was chosen for its centralized location in town – it is also a homecoming for Mr. Khoury.
“The Walden Avenue stretch from Harlem to Union has always intrigued me on how busy it is and how great the community is. I’m also a resident of Cheektowaga so this is actually coming home for me and I just appreciate all the support and the business from the customers we have.”
The interior of the restaurant was designed by Danny Elkhoury Design Studio, Inc. The store is somewhat modeled off of the Hamburg location but the Walden Avenue location is crammed into a cozy 1,500 sq. ft.
“We used every inch possible in this space and I knew we had to do that from the start. At some point, I felt like we weren’t going to have enough space in here but we were able to pull it off with barely any room left to work with,” said Mr. Elkhoury.
Each table has a dedicated electrical out to charge your devices. All the wood in the restaurant is post-consumer material and the chairs are custom designed and built in Italy. The restaurant even commissioned a photographer to take custom photos to hang on the wall.
“Each store is a little bit different but you’re going to feel like you’re in a Rachel’s no matter what. This is the template we want to go with moving forward. Very white space, a lot of eco-friendly products. All the tabletops are made of 100% recycled paper with bamboo filling believe it or not,” added Mr. Elkhoury.
Mr. Elkhoury tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that his company is redesigning Rachel’s website to allow online ordering and will be rolling out a new catering experience that fits with the restaurant’s branding.
Mr. Khoury says that he is just getting started and he hopes to take the restaurant and the Rachel’s name to the top.
“We hope and we would be proud to become a nationally recognized brand that was homegrown right here in Buffalo,” said Mr. Khoury.
The Walden Avenue location is open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.