Finding a healthy restaurant in downtown Lincoln can be a struggle to some, as the streets are filled with convenient fast food joints that offer discounted prices. Lincoln franchiser Raouf Agrignan is filling that void near the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus by bringing a fresh new option with nutrition in mind.
He was interested in becoming a business owner and desperate to find a healthy option for lunch, so he began researching healthy restaurant chains that satisfied his cravings.
After months of searching, Agrignan came across Fresh Healthy Café, a chain based out of Vancouver, Canada. Once he researched its menu and realized the chain was exactly what he was looking for, Agrignan decided to open his own franchise in Lincoln, which is scheduled to open on Nov. 26.
“I looked up the restaurant, menu and everything to make sure it was something I wanted to invest in,” he said. “I like to be healthy. I like their concept. I like what they offer, so I decided to invest in it.”
Agrignan said he wants to open the location not only to give himself an opportunity to eat healthier, but also provide a healthier and local option for others in Lincoln who may think fresh food is hard to find.
“Some may struggle to find a healthy lunch or snack, so I decided I might as well open one myself,” he said.
According to Agrignan, the Lincoln location is the first Fresh Healthy Café in the Midwest, with the prior closest location to Nebraska being in Boise, Idaho. Agrignan said he’s excited for those in Lincoln to try their menu, which is what initially drew him in.
When customers come into Fresh Healthy Café, they have a wide range of items to choose from, such as a turkey bacon avocado wrap, or a veggie portobello panini. Along with sandwiches, Agrignan said their menu offers choices such as artisan toasts, salads, soups, smoothies and protein bowls — the last of which is his personal favorite, with quinoa, kale and chicken.
For Fresh Healthy Café franchise developer Ruben Estrella, his favorite part about the restaurant is that customers will always know they’re getting fresh food and that their food isn’t packed away before it’s served.
“I love the fact it's made-to-order in the sense that I can come here and feel like every sandwich I want, I can still tweak it,” he said. “I know it’s not in a fridge somewhere, so that's what I like about this concept.”
Though the restaurant is full of healthy and all-natural options, the food at Fresh Healthy Café comes at relatively low prices, with most options ranging from $5-7.
“It is healthy, but at the same time we want to be competitive,” Estrella said. “We didn’t want to focus too much on prices — we want to do something good for the community.”
Besides offering healthy options for people to eat, Agrignan said he wants to give people a space to relax, surrounded by lime green walls with motivational quotes and facts about the restaurant displayed on them.
“When you come in, we want you to feel good about yourself,” he said. “It looks nice and it gives you a sense of joy to look at.”
Agrignan said the restaurant will also serve coffee, which he hopes will bring in more students to the café. He said he would like to offer UNL students a 10 percent discount on food and coffee. Agrignan would also like students to spend time studying in the restaurant’s mezzanine upstairs. Overlooking the rest of the café, the mezzanine gives customers a chance to sit in a more secluded area of the restaurant while they study or hang out.
Estrella said he’s looking forward to the location opening in Lincoln because he believes the city needs more healthy choices for businessmen and students to eat downtown.
“One thing we always say is that we provide an option,” he said. “This is an option that is needed in Lincoln. You know, that’s healthy, quick enough, casual enough, and I think it’s inviting for students.”
Once the restaurant opens, Agrignan said he hopes Fresh Healthy Café will have a positive impact on Lincoln residents, and his goal is for people to start choosing healthier options now that they have a cheap and local restaurant to do so.
“I wanted to invest in a business that can help people live a healthier lifestyle,” he said. “I think owning something like this will give people a chance to reach their goal.”