The collective restaurant scene in Oklahoma City took notice in March with the announcement of Fox Restaurant Concepts’ entrance into the market with its successful health-focused Flower Child restaurant slated for Classen Curve.
Fox Restaurant Concepts got a boost with its overall expansion plans this week after it announced a $353 million acquisition by The Cheesecake Factory. Founder Sam Fox will remain in charge of the company’s day-to-day operations, menu and concept development.
The Cheesecake Factory previously invested $88 million in Fox Restaurant’s Flower Child and North Italia chains. According to Forbes, The Cheesecake Factory was in discussions to buy North Italia but decided to buy the entire company.
Fox Restaurant Concepts also includes Blanco Tacos + Tequila, Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar, Culinary Dropout, The Arrogant Butcher, Wildflower, Olive & Ivy, The Greene House, The Henry and Dough Bird Pizza & Rotisserie for a total footprint of 45 operating restaurants in seven states. Fox will continue to oversee those brands from his Phoenix headquarters while North Italia will relocate to The Cheesecake Factory’s headquarters in California and operate as a separate entity, according to a press release.
“I feel great,” Fox said in an interview with Oklahoma Gazette. “We’re excited about the future and the growth of all of the other brands. We’ve been partners [with The Cheesecake Factory] for the last three years with Flower Child and North [Italia]. We’ve been able to look into each other’s businesses and our relationships, and it’s been great.”
Fox, a third-generation restaurateur, began his company in 1998 by opening Wildflower in Tucson. He is a 10-time James Beard Award semi-finalist for restaurateur of the year and has been named to Nation Restaurant News’ 50 most influential list for five consecutive years.
Fox was ahead of the curve on fast-casual concepts, first creating Sauce Pizza & Wine in 1999, and forayed into the health and wellness market with True Food Kitchen. Both concepts have been sold and scaled by other companies.
With North Italia heading to The Cheesecake Factory, where the housemade pasta franchise will be scaled nationally, Flower Child is Fox Concepts’ biggest brand at over 20 locations. It is a fast-casual extension of the ethos established by sit-down True Food Kitchen.
Flower Child emphasizes the use of organic and gluten-free ingredients that lean vegan and vegetarian, but much of the menu is mix-and-match with the option of adding sustainable salmon, grass-fed steak, all-natural chicken and organic, non-GMO tofu.
“We’re leading in the [healthy] category, and we’ve done really well in Texas,” Fox said. “I think we’ve found that our business is incredibly great there, and I believe the business is great because of that void. As we go into markets like Oklahoma City and, you know, maybe Tulsa one day, I feel like we are first to market in a big way. We’re excited for the opportunity to show the community what we’re all about.”
Flower Child has four regional menus across its footprint, and Fox expects Oklahoma to have similar offerings to what can be found in Texas. He said his personal favorite item is the Flying Avocado Wrap with smoked turkey, Gouda, romaine, tomato and avocado hummus. He is also partial to the kale salad with grapefruit, apple, black currant, smoked almond, white cheddar and apple cider vinaigrette.
“I order the kale salad with chicken,” Fox said. “All of our bowls are really popular, but the Mother Earth is probably the most popular item on the menu.”
The Mother Earth bowl combines ancient grains, sweet potato, portobello mushroom, avocado, cucumber, pistachio pesto, charred onion, leafy greens and red pepper miso vinaigrette with protein-packed hemp seeds.
Located at the southeast corner of NW 63rd Street and Grand Avenue, 3,500 square-foot Flower Child will have a big patio and share a lot next to Torchy’s Tacos. It is on track to open by the end of 2019.
Before entering a new market, Fox Restaurant Concepts sends an ambassador team from its marketing department to partner with like-minded people from health and fitness communities to help promote the business. He also said his research shows that people in the Oklahoma City market are aware of the Flower Child brand.
“Phoenix and Oklahoma City have a lot of crossover,” he said. “In the winter, we get a lot of people from Oklahoma City [in Phoenix], and so they know our brand and who we are. [Entering Oklahoma City] felt like a great extension of Texas and Phoenix.”
On a personal level, Fox said he has visited Oklahoma City on many occasions because two of his friends from college live in Nichols Hills.
“I was really impressed, and it’s evolving. I stayed in the [21c Museum Hotel], and I thought that area was really neat,” Fox said. “There was a cool music venue going on (The Jones Assembly) and a lot of great buildings. We’re excited to be there; really, really excited.”
Forbes reports that The Cheesecake Factory projects the acquisition of Fox Restaurant Concepts will increase its revenue by $450 million in 2020. Fox expects the influx of money into his brands will lead to further expansion in Oklahoma.
“We’re always looking at opportunities, and we are going to be growing,” he said. “We never take anything off the table until we look at it and make sure it works for us or doesn’t work for us. We’ll get Flower Child open, and if we have success, I’m sure we’ll look at other opportunities in the market.”