Founder, Panorama Middle Eastern Grill
Middle Eastern food in New York and the US at large is having a moment. A recent article by Business Insider highlighted the growth in the Middle Eastern food category in the past couple of years with brands like Cava and Zoe’s Kitchen leading the charge. Middle Eastern food has been largely underrepresented in markets like New York with very few chains having developed more than five stores. One can argue the lack of resources and family owned units dominating the sector for decades, which inhibited franchise-like development. Markets like Manhattan priced out a lot of operators with prices per square foot for rents in neighborhoods like Midtown East averaging $250 per square foot in 2017 and early 2018. It is difficult for family owned operators to survive with such high rent numbers and operational costs coupled with minimum wage in New York State rising close to $15 per hour. Interestingly however cities like London have seen Middle Eastern food part of the mainstream for decades with many Middle Eastern food options available in central locations such as Marble Arch, Knightsbridge and Chelsea. In comparison, New York City did not experience a similar growth or establishment given ethnic and cultural difference between the two global cities.
Middle Eastern Food:
Despite the financial, cultural, and economic backdrop; Middle Eastern food has been alive for centuries and consists of ancient grains and exotic spices that deliver many health benefits and translate into a healthy food option when paired with the right mix of vegetables, grains, and protein.
One ancient Middle Eastern grain worth highlighting is Freekeh. A forgotten super grain that has been a staple of Middle Eastern diets for decades. Freekeh works well with both savory and sweet foods making it really easy to include in daily diet. Freekeh is low in fat and high in protein and fiber, which promotes a healthy digestive system. The super grain is experiencing resurgence at Panorama Middle Eastern Grill that opened its first store in Union Square and customers can add Freekeh as a base toward their meal. Hummus is another item that in the past ten years has seen explosive growth in the United States, and Whole Foods regarded it as one of the most sought-after items for 2018 in its grocery stores along with Middle Eastern spices like cardamom. The main ingredient in hummus is chickpea, which is another superfood. Other than the soybean, chickpeas are the most grown and eaten bean in the world today. Chickpeas are not only a tremendous source of protein, they also contain an abundance of starch, fiber and minerals. Chickpeas can be considered a “good carb” because it is digested slowly. The slower the human body digests food the more stable blood sugar levels will be.
Baba Ghanoush, which consists of roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, is another Middle Eastern dish that promotes a healthy diet. Baba Ghanoush is a good source of fiber and healthy fat – healthy fats help the body transport vitamins through the bloodstream, resulting in more energy, and healthier skin.
The addition of exotic spices with Middle Eastern dishes make the food flavorful, which is well received by customers who like to keep healthy but want their food to taste good.
The Future of Middle Eastern cuisine:
The market for Middle Eastern food is ripe given the cuisine’s exotic flavors and health benefits. Pundits expect growth in several brands focusing on Middle Eastern food over the next decade. One such brand that is taking a fresh take on Middle Eastern food is Panorama that offers customers the opportunity to customize their meal by mixing Middle Eastern grains such as freekeh with hummus and popular proteins like chicken shawarma. BAB members are entitled to a 10% discount while dining at Panorama, which is located at 820 Broadway just south of Union Square: www.pnanyc.com