Sabra is opening its own restaurant for a few weeks, with a rotating menu from well-known chefs, as it tries to expand consumption of the chickpea dip.
The restaurant is named Whirled Peas, a spin on the main ingredient, the process of making hummus—which blends chickpeas with tahini, oil, and herbs—and world peace. The pop-up restaurant is taking over the West Village space occupied by Einat Admony’s couscous-centric restaurant Kish-Kash with its own decor and menu showcasing dishes from different cultures.
It’s Sabra’s biggest experiential marketing push to date. It comes as plant-based foods are having a bit of a moment, with meat-like patties such as those from Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Meatless Farm Co. expanding distribution. Also, some food marketers best known for products in grocery stores have been expanding their brand reach by opening restaurants. Chobani and Nutella, for example, have their own cafes, and Avocados From Mexico is set to open a Dallas restaurant focused on avocados later this year.
But first, Sabra is looking to give hummus its moment in the spotlight.
Sabra—which already holds a majority share of the U.S. hummus market—wants to see usage grow among the one-third of U.S. households that already buy hummus, as well as bring new consumers to the category.
“We’ve been talking about using hummus beyond a dip,” says Jason Levine, who joined Sabra as its chief marketing officer six months ago. The company has been promoting dishes such as flatbread, hummus toast and bowls.
From Oct. 11 through Nov. 24, five chefs who focus on different varieties of cuisine will take turns presenting their spins on hummus and other ingredients.
“We’re going to learn a lot about where we take Sabra and the hummus category going forward,” says Levine.
Admony, who already had hummus on the Kish-Kash menu, met with Sabra’s team to come up with a hummus specifically for the pop-up, says Levine.
“We are anticipating launching a super-premium or restaurant-quality hummus in the future,” Levine says.
The other chefs working on the project are Wes Avila, owner of Guerilla Tacos in Los Angeles; Esther Choi, owner of Mokbar and Ms. Yoo in New York; Kwame Onwuachi, executive chef at Kith/Kin in Washington, D.C.; Jet Tila, a chef and cookbook author who has appeared on several cooking shows, and Deborah VanTrece, caterer and owner of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in Atlanta.
“We chose these chefs because they already do a great job of expressing their cultural heritage through food,” says Levine.
Lunch and dinner items will be priced from $8 to $22 and include dishes such as Choi’s bulgogi hummus bowl.
Sabra did much of the Whirled Peas work internally, with support from agencies including Likey.