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Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis

Green Leaf’s and Bananas

The one dining spot that can satisfy just about any appetite is the mall foodcourt, which is why their clientele has grown beyond shoppers. Foodcourts draw families at dinnertime and the work crowd at lunch, yet few consider them a source of health food. Villa Enterprises, best-known as the owners of the 130-unit Villa Pizza foodcourt chain, hopes to change that with the growth of their recently re-branded restaurant duo Green Leaf’s and Bananas.

Villa Enterprises acquired the brands as part of its purchase of Everything Yogurt Brands in 2003. Villa consolidated Everything Yogurt Brands’ seven concepts into three including Green Leaf’s, Bananas, and South Philly Steaks and Fries. There are 45 co-branded locations of Green Leaf’s and Bananas, with plans to open seven to 10 more in 2007 and 10 more in 2008.

“There are very few healthy choices at most foodcourts now. We now have something for everyone,” says Regina Rodriguez, Villa Enterprises marketing manager. She says that Green Leaf’s and Bananas complement Villa Pizza, which has been renamed Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen. “We wanted to be able to fill different needs for potential franchisees; there’s competition everywhere. And we now have all the dayparts covered.”

Green Leaf’s and Bananas almost always appear together, although there are a few lone Bananas locations. “We consider Bananas to be our fun, impulse concept, so it works in small kiosk locations in malls and airports,” Rodriguez says.

Bananas, which began in 1979 as Everything Yogurt, serves frozen yogurt, smoothies (fruit and non-fat yogurt), frosties (fruit and ice), and pretzels. The brand received a new logo and store design featuring bright red, green, and yellow as part of Villa’s re-branding of the acquired concepts, which was completed in early 2005. The culinary team also has been adding to and improving the smoothie line, including the introduction of the Mochalicious smoothie in August.

Green Leaf’s saw more change with its redesign. The name became the more descriptive Green Leaf’s, Beyond Great Salads and the store and logo got what Rodriguez describes as an upscale, sophisticated look with vibrant food photos on the walls. The concept began in 1976 and evolved from Everything Yogurt and Salad Cafés. “The new name tells customers we’re a salad place—we use only the freshest ingredients—but we have other things too,” Rodriguez says.

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