You could say Doug Lang started Grain & Berry for his daughter, Lauren.
“It all comes down to the fact that I have a teenage daughter that has digestive issues,” Lang said. “Once we realized she could have acai bowls without a problem, we were thrilled, but there weren’t many options in Palm Harbor.”
With California and the Northeast at the forefront of the acai bowl trend, he noticed Florida — not just Palm Harbor — was severely behind. The state’s frozen yogurt shops and juice bars offered a few colorful bowls, sure. But Lang, who’s spent nearly two decades diving into entrepreneurial endeavors, was determined to fill the void in the market.
Luckily, about two years ago, a mutual friend introduced Lang to hotel restaurant management veteran Trey Kessler, and the two hit it off. They began making moves to develop Grain & Berry almost instantly.
Marketing itself as a superfood cafe with a focus on signature acai bowls, Grain & Berry has launched three locations around Tampa Bay — plus a fourth in Key West — over its last year and a half in business. CCO Kristen Lang created the menu, which consists of bowls, fruit smoothies, yogurt parfaits and banana splits, avocado toast, and juices.
But what sets Grain & Berry apart from other acai bowl purveyors in town? According to Kessler, they’ve strategically designed the cafe so it can stand on its own when competition comes knocking.
“I don’t care who comes along, they can’t provide a better product or service,” the CEO said. “We want to be a household name. We have set our sights to be at the forefront of the health-food industry on this coast.”
That means fresh fruit is delivered to each location six days a week, orders are prepared sans sugar or additives in front of guests, and staff is expected to offer unparalleled customer service.
Kessler and COO Doug Lang, who aim to have 100 Florida locations within the next three years, spend their days discussing new leases, checking in on their four cafes and interviewing prospective franchisees. They recently sold 19 franchises, and the plan is to continue their statewide expansion in 2019, reaching farther south and working their way east to Orlando.
Six outposts for Grain & Berry are under construction locally — with more on the horizon. Brandon Mall will get its own cafe in late January, followed by Carrollwood and South Tampa in February, Sarasota in March, and Trinity in June. Acai aficionados who call New Tampa home aren’t left out, either, as their location has a targeted opening of late October.
The partners are also in talks to become one of two retailers at the Channel District’s Sparkman Wharf. They could potentially take over a 2,000-square-foot spot near the recreational lawn.
In a month or so, Lang and Kessler will attend another health food expo in New York to get the scoop on trends for the new year. They’ve grown Grain & Berry into a popular place where nutritious meets tasty, and they don’t want to lose that title.