Fast-casual phenomenon Souvla has opened its fifth location in San Francisco — but customers can’t go there to linger over Greek wine and beer, as they do at Souvla’s four existing locations. Souvla SoMa is the restaurant’s first permanent virtual restaurant, as such delivery-only kitchens are sometimes known. It’s now proudly advertised on the website of delivery service Caviar as Souvla’s newest location: Souvla SoMa, accessible only via the internet.
When his first location opened in Hayes Valley in 2014, delivery wasn’t a big consideration, says Souvla CEO and founder Charles Bililies. Now, it accounts for more than 30 percent of the restaurant’s business, and it’s central to its business model. Bililies and co. have continued to emphasize the dine-in customer experience, but as they built out more Souvla locations, they’ve steadily increased the size of the restaurants’ kitchens. At the latest location to open, on Chestnut Street in the Marina, Souvla’s kitchen is about twice the size of the dining room, and there’s a built-in delivery window to speed up the delivery process.
The newest Souvla takes that idea to its logical extreme. Located at 532 Jessie Street (but don’t go there unless you’re a Caviar courier or Souvla employee), the location’s focus is on downtown diners ordering in, and the menu is the same as other locations, with gyro-like sandwiches and hefty salads. With office orders in mind, there’s an emphasis on big group catering, too, and a few new menu items like whole feta-brined chickens. All orders over $250 will now come from Souvla’s SoMa kitchen, a representative says.
Third-party delivery through services like Caviar presents a massive new revenue stream for restaurants like Souvla, but it can come with big new costs. Restaurants like Mission Pie and Green Chile Kitchen cited the high delivery fees charged by Caviar and Uber Eats as among the reasons for their closures. But for its part, Souvla appears to be navigating the waters of delivery rather well, or at least swimming with the current.
Hours at the new Souvla are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. — a little earlier than other locations.