Healthy fast-casual eatery Lemonade opened its 28th location and its 3rd in San Francisco yesterday at 1266 9th Ave. in the Inner Sunset. The LA-based chain first announced plans to move into the space in January 2016 after prior tenant La Boulangerie closed in September 2015.
The restaurant invited residents, area merchants and local media on Monday for a preview that included a complimentary lunch and dinner. With about 3000 square feet, the cafeteria-style restaurant is one of the largest in the area.
“It’s a brand new design for the brand,” said Ian Olsen, Lemonade’s chief development officer. Designed by SF-based Rapt Studio, “It’s more of a Scandinavian aesthetic that fits the city really well,” he said.
After entering, customers grab a menu and a plastic tray, then make their way along a line of food stations offering freshly-prepared selections from Lemonade’s seasonal menu. Salads, soups and sandwiches are available, as are a la carte selections of meat, seafood and side dishes.
“You can choose as you go, but we’ve also curated plates for you,” said founder and chef Alan Jackson. “We’re clearly a vegetable-centric cafeteria that really is inspired by multi-regional flavors. A complete meal goes for $12, “and the highest is $13 for a chef’s plate,” said Jackson.
Jackson, who creates menu items for the entire chain, said the 80 percent vegetable-based menu reflects his “quirky” palate.
With seating for slightly more than 100 customers and a staff of 65, the 9th Avenue cafeteria is “a bigger unit for us,” said Olsen, noting that it’s larger than Lemonade’s Yerba Buena or West Portal locations. “There was some infrastructure here,” Jackson said, “but otherwise, it’s absolutely brand new.”
Because the company has more than 11 locations, it had to first navigate the city’s formula retail process, “which took a fair amount of time,” Olsen said.
During the approval process, the company conducted outreach to give neighbors a sense of what to expect; Jackson held an open house in February 2016 to take questions and offer a tasting menu.
“We’re a California brand, so we don’t really feel like we’re an outsider landing in some foreign territory,” said Olsen. “We had wonderful interactions with the community here.”
Jackson said Lemonade selected the location because of its proximity to the transit hub at 9th & Irving and Golden Gate Park. “You really have the right confluence of people here,” he said.
Lemonade plans to open additional San Francisco locations, but the company is “still looking for real estate,” Olsen said, adding that they’re considering “a new business model” for a FiDi location.
Angie Petit-Taylor, one of several Sunset residents invited to Monday’s preview, told Hoodline she enjoyed her visit.
“I thought everything was quite flavorful. The seared ahi salad was perfect in my opinion,” she said, praising Lemonade staffers who “were super nice and patient as I really stumbled through the menu and process.”
Petit-Taylor said the menu’s complexity was the only downside. “However, I imagine that with some practice, I will get the hang of it,” she added.
Lemonade is located at 1266 9th Avenue and is open from 11am to 9pm.