Mahana Fresh, an up-and-coming build-your-own-bowl restaurant, has secured a franchise expansion deal with Washington Wizards player Kyle Kuzma. According to the Franchise Times, the soon-to-be chain serves a variety of rice, noodle and salad bowls, all of which are gluten-free.
Kuzma plans to kick off his master franchise agreement with the restaurant by opening up a location near his home in Tysons Corner, Virginia. He then plans to open a location in Scottsdale, Arizona. As part of their multi-unit franchise partnership, Kuzma will be developing multiple locations nationwide.
“Working with a brand that is in the early stages of expansion is exciting, as I have an opportunity to play a direct role in the future growth of the business. Although the prospect of opening multiple stores nationwide is a sizable undertaking, it also presents the potential for significant returns, and I’m looking forward to putting in the work to make it a success,” Kuzma told Franchise Times.
The basketball player is also an investor in the company and holds a significant minority interest.
The 28-year-old, who signed a four-year contract with the Wizards back in July for a whopping $102 million, told the Franchise Times that he was on the hunt for the right investment when Mahana Fresh came on his radar.
“I had a lot of conversations with their team, conducted extensive research, and when I visited the store locations, I fell in love with the food and their commitment to providing healthy alternatives,” he said, adding the the restaurant compliments what consumers want, and it reflects “my own lifestyle choices.”
Mahana Fresh was founded by former Domino’s Pizza franchisee Dave Wood. Wood started franchising in 2019 and has seven locations of the pizza chain restaurant open. He came up with the idea to create Mahana Fresh after playing basketball when he was looking for a fast food option “that was also good for me.”
“There was nothing that was healthy, but without being an acai or grain bowl. Something more mainstream healthy,” Wood told the Franchise Times.
Mahana Fresh restaurants won’t use fryers, microwaves or freezers — all of its gluten-free items will be prepared fresh. Diners can select their base of rice (basmati blend, coconut or cauliflower), sesame noodles, spinach or kale; select from several vegetable choices; and add protein like teriyaki chicken, ahi tuna, sesame garlic tofu or citrus garlic shrimp. The menu also includes premade signature bowls, like the Island Bliss Bowl and Keto Surfer Bowl.
“There’s a growing trend of people who are trying to reduce gluten in their diet,” Wood said. “We can cater to almost any dietary preference out there.”
The variety of bases means Mahana Fresh isn’t just a salad concept, he added. “That gets us away from the veto vote.”
Mahana Fresh is just one of Kuzma’s investments; he’s also invested in fashion label Childhood Dreams and recovery sports drink brand Barcode. He developed the latter with Mubarak “Bar” Malik, a former New York Knicks and Lakers director of performance.
“I’ve been building out my entrepreneurial portfolio over the last few years, and I’m very particular about the companies I become involved with. There are a lot of factors I take into consideration — the brand mission, the team dynamic, the vision for growth, how we can benefit the community, etcetera,” he said. “So if an opportunity arose in the future with a franchise that makes sense from a strategic business perspective, I’d absolutely be interested.”