Fast-growing, trend-setting Souvla will open its fourth Greek counter-service restaurant at 2272 Chestnut Street in the Marina. The new outpost, formerly a David’s Tea shop, will resemble the original, 2014-founded Souvla space in Hayes Valley, with indoor and outdoor seating and views of a rotisserie spit-roasting chicken, lamb, and pork for gyro sandwiches and salads. The Marina Souvla will open sometime this year (an exact date hasn’t been set).
“From the very early days of Souvla, the Marina has always been our most-requested neighborhood,” says Souvla founder and CEO Charles Bililes. He’s heard from “clamoring” would-be customers in the youthful neighborhood, where Greek is typically found on sorority and fraternity sweatshirts but less common in casual dining.
After opening in Hayes Valley and growing popular for takeout via Caviar, Souvla gathered data from the delivery service to determine the location for its next store, settling on nearby Divisadero. From there, Bililies targeted busy Valencia Street, meanwhile testing the waters on the other side of the bay with an East Bay Caviar delivery period, and even gauging interest in Souvla on the East Coast with a sold-out New York pop-up delivery.
“Immediately after the Valencia store opened, we turned to the Marina, but it took us a long time to find a space that could be a Souvla,” says Bililies. “All the way down to the physical space and the block, those things matter to us.”
2272 Chestnut Street will be similar in layout and size to the Hayes Valley restaurant, which is still the best-performing of the group, though physically smallest. There, Souvla honed its brand, taking hallmarks of fine-dining, like appropriate stemware, and bringing them to bear on a more casual, counter-service dining setting.
Souvla’s Marina location, like the rest, will have wide-ranging daily hours from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and offer flexibility for take-out, delivery, or eating in, with an atmosphere not too stuffy for lunch but nice enough for a low key date. The northernmost Souvla will also grant faster access to delivery customers in neighborhoods like North Beach and Russian Hill.
“This is the way that people want to eat,” says Bililies, and the group’s about 3,000 daily customers appear to agree. It’s even a popular option for dessert with its frozen Greek yogurt and toppings, and in anticipation of high Marina demand, Souvla chef/partner Tony Cervone is installing an extra large soft serve machine at the new location.
But as Souvla replicates its model around San Francisco (with an eye toward further expansion), others could be doing the same. Some customers have noticed aspects of Souvla’s design at other restaurants. Bililies sees menus “where you look at the ingredients and your’e like, ‘where have I seen this before?’”
Though Souvla has “trademarked the things we’re able to trademark,” copycats might not present such a big problem, in the end. “We’re starting to see elements of Souvla appropriated at other restaurants, but not all of them together. There’s more to Souvla than oranges in our chicken sandwich or our frozen yogurt in New York [Greek coffee shop] cups.”
One way Souvla is happy to be followed: “In changing the narrative on what working in a restaurant like this can be... A couple years ago, you wouldn’t think that a restaurant of our size would have a 401K match program or paid vacation,” says Bililies, referencing benefits enjoyed by Souvla’s more than 125 workers. For the Marina location, It plans to hire 35 more.