By Lydia Hurley
Two new franchise restaurants are coming to College Park. Construction is underway at sites for The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill and the Little Blue Menu, and the announcement that these chains are arriving has sparked community debate.
Little Blue Menu
The Little Blue Menu is an offshoot of Chick-fil-A “inspired by the blue menu from Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy’s beginnings at the Hapeville Dwarf House, where he constantly tweaked his menu to give customers what they wanted most,” according to their website. They describe the Little Blue Menu as a digital-based restaurant, commonly referred to as a ghost kitchen, which does not offer in-house services. Customers can use the restaurant’s app to order carryout from their three kitchens: Chick-fil-A, Outfox Wings and Because, Burger.
The Little Blue Menu ghost kitchen coming to College Park this fall is the second location to open in the U.S., driven by the success of their pilot location which opened in 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.
“Our hope with bringing Little Blue Menu to College Park is that we can provide ever-changing, fresh culinary experiences to the innovative audience. We aim to fully embed in the community and will rely heavily on guests’ feedback, which will help us evolve our menu and improve their experience,” the company’s representative added.
The Little Blue Menu will be located on the former site of the Applebee’s (7242 Baltimore Avenue).
College Park council members and city planners met in July 2022 to discuss site plans for the Little Blue Menu. Meeting participants discussed the community and roadway impacts, as well as ethical concerns about the Chick-fil-A corporation and their goals for developing in College Park.
City residents have been discussing the Little Blue Menu since this time last year. According to articles in The Diamondback and The Hyattsville Wire, some residents have expressed concerns about Chick-fil-A’s association with anti-LGBTQ groups.
“There is absolutely no dissembling whatsoever. [Chick-fil-A] simply has no interest in the community and isn’t going to even try to pretend otherwise,” said Matthew Kirschebaum, an English professor at the University of Maryland.
Elizabeth Maring, a local resident said, “I have no more questions, but sadness and frustration.”
Longtime resident Christina Grant noted that ordering through an app might be challenging for some and that the process could dissuade potential customers.
The Little Blue Menu is poised to offer competitive-wage employment and give back to the community.
“In honor of our opening, Chick-fil-A®, Inc. will donate $25,000 to Feeding America on behalf of the new restaurant. The funds will be distributed to the Capital Area Food Bank to aid in the fight against hunger,” the representative said.
The Little Blue Menu representative declined to comment on the ethical concerns raised by residents and elected officials.
Some university students also have mixed feelings about the Little Blue Menu opening in College Park.
“We have busy lives and we often find ourselves not wanting to make the walk after a long day of classes. I think that this will be an attractive option to students,” Aadhiti Vallatharasu, a rising senior at the university, said in an interview. “However, it comes back to the ethicality of Chick-fil-A and the practices that they uphold. This has consistently been an issue on campus,” he added.
The Little Blue Menu is slated to open this fall, according to the Chick-fil-A website.
The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill
The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill will also be firing up its stoves soon at 8900 Baltimore Avenue, to the right of Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard.
The eatery was founded by neighbors Nick Della Penna and Trent Jones in 2016 after the pair left their careers in hospitality and real estate, respectively. The Las Vegas-based franchise has over 50 locations across the country; the College Park location will be the first to come to Maryland. The grill features traditional Greek items such as falafel, gyros and baklava.
“The food served in our casual atmosphere is designed for foodies with discerning palates. We focus on fresh ingredients, spice blends sourced directly from the Mediterranean and sauces and marinades made in-house,” the company’s site notes.
The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill did not respond to the College Park Here & Now’s requests for comment.
Vallatharasu suggested that The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill may have trouble competing with other Greek restaurants in the city, such as Marathon Deli and taim mediterranean kitchen.
“I think Marathon’s … fame lies in the convenience for students after a late night. And I think that it offers an option different from traditional late night food, like pizza, and the iconic Marathon fries are what I think sets it apart,” Vallatharasu said.
Vallatharasu and Grant both hope that College Park focuses more on local business and less on inviting more franchises to the city.
“Something similar to Le Fantome Food Hall, in Riverdale Park, … would be super attractive to students. I think we have enough chains as it is, all of which are major corporations, and there’s a way we can provide opportunities for businesses and for students,” Vallatharasu said.
“Everything used to be, you know, family-owned, and you knew somebody, like a mom and dad ran a convenience store, or Plato’s Diner or the laundromat. We knew the families that ran everything, and now it’s like, we don’t even recognize downtown anymore,” Grant said.