Austin-based restaurant VERTS has major plans to enter the Houston market in 2014. VERTS serves döner kebap, the Turkish-inspired sandwich that combines spit-roasted meat and veggies in a flatbread. Introduced to Germany in the 1970s, kebaps have become Europe's most popular fast food.
"(Kebap) has grown to 17,000 restaurants in Germany — that's more than half of 32,000 total restaurants," co-owner Michael Heyne tells CultureMap.
When Heyne and business partner Dominik Stein moved to Texas in 2008 to study at SMU, they were surprised by their inability to find kebaps. "There must be a reason for this," Heyne recalls thinking. "Everyone eats döner kebap in Germany."
Heyne attributes the company's success to the healthy cooking method. He explains that using a spit to roast the meat allows the fat to drip away.
After moving to Austin to complete their MBAs, Heyne and Stein launched VERTS in August 2011 with two restaurants on the University of Texas campus. In only two years, the company has grown to seven locations and has four more planned. Heyne says that Houston and Dallas are "the next logical growth step for our concept . . . Of the cities in Texas, you look at the biggest markets first. That's Dallas and Houston."
As for why Houston is getting VERTS first, Heyne explains that "we had a much easier time finding locations in Houston this year." The company has signed four leases: On West Gray next to the new Mama Fu's, on Yale St just south of I-10, in Vintage Market in Northwest Houston and in Cypress near Hempstead Rd and Hwy 290. Construction will begin by the end of the month with opening dates slated between March and May.
Heyne attributes the company's success to the healthy cooking method. He explains that using a spit to roast the meat allows the fat to drip away. "Döner kebap is a very healthy product. The greatest strength is the flavor of the beef," Heyne says. "All of our entrees include sauces, veggies, meat and bread (but) have under 550 calories."
Customers choose from meat (a mix of lamb and beef), chicken or vegetarian, select either traditional flatbread or tortilla and add veggies and sauces.
So far the menu includes a limited selection of sides, but fries are coming thanks to a constant demand from customers. Heyne also promises three draft beers at the Houston locations.
Houstonians, have you tried VERTS? Are you excited it's coming to Houston? Sound off in the comments section.