“Great food doesn’t have to leave you broke.” This deep-rooted belief of Pierre Panos is what has molded the guiding principle of his entrepreneurial restaurant endeavors. By combining the food quality and restaurant ambience that he became familiar with during his fine dining and finer casual dining days, with the price points and operational platform of the ever-popular fast casual category, Pierre’s vision to provide a dining option of fresh, flavorful and affordable food culminated in his development of a new concept, Fresh To Order, pioneer of the fast-fine niche.
With a banner year for company-owned and franchised store openings in 2014, Fresh To Order is well on track to have 50 open units, with 50 more in development by 2018. Among its industry awards are The NRN 50 Breakout Brand (2013), QSR Best Franchise Deal (2013, 2015) Nation’s Restaurant News Hot Concepts (2013), Food News Media’s Healthy Active Lifestyle Award (2014), and Fast Casual’s Top 50 (2015).
The path to building a multi-concept business began in South Africa where the then-7-year old Pierre worked in the kitchen of the family’s restaurant. After earning a Master’s in Accounting and Taxation, he joined Cooper & Lybrand (the PWC predecessor), only to return to his first love, the restaurant business. Together with his brother, Pierre owned and operated a fine dining establishment which they grew to be among the top 3 restaurants, in terms of revenue, in Johannesburg. Eventually they sold this establishment when Pierre immigrated to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1993.
Once settled in his new home city, Pierre continued with his entrepreneurial ventures as CFO and co-owner of Brookwood Grill restaurants, a fine casual concept serving innovative American cuisine. In 1996, real estate developer David Rowe and Pierre co-founded Stoney River Legendary Steaks with restaurants in Atlanta and under construction in Chicago before selling to O’Charley’s in 2000.
At 35, with no plans to retire, Pierre established QS America, LLC, parent company, with holdings in Papa Johns pizza franchises, Brookwood Grill, and eventually, Fresh To Order (f2o).
Tapping into the culinary talents of his long-time executive chef Jesse Gideon, Pierre set out to continue his passion through f2o by offering a menu of “clean, fresh, nutritious food without breaking the bank”.
“I like to develop concepts that fit into something that’s not already there”, Pierre once said. “’I saw there was a niche for fast fine. Our platform is about being able to deliver that “fine” element of dining of our food while keeping our prices reasonably affordable.”
For as long as the runway ahead of Fresh To Order remains long, it looks like its founder will not be retiring any time soon.