ATLANTA - Former quarterback scores with a new kind of "bowl" game:
Nate Hybl was raised in small-town South Georgia — Hazlehurst, to be exact — but when his skills on the football field took him around the world, he developed some international tastes.
"I just fell in love with garlic and ginger and mango and basil and mint," Hybl says.
And following his time as starting quarterback for the University of Oklahoma and some time as a professional both here in the States and abroad, Hybl says he was hungry for something new — and he means that literally.
"I mean, gusto! was really born out of my desire as a consumer to have grilled chicken flavored a bunch of different ways," he says. "As a former athlete, that's what I wanted."
gusto! is Hybl’s unique "fast-casual" restaurant concept, where flavor sits high atop the food chain.
"So, 'What's your gusto?' is our call to action," Hybl explains. "And that is us saying, 'What are you in the mood for? What's your flavor?' And we lead with the flavor, the 'gusto.' Chipotle mango avocado, tzatziki lemon artichoke, tahini cucumber feta, sweet soy sriracha; we have these personalities, these profiles."
Customers at gusto! choose the flavor profile first, then choose a protein and style (rice bowl, salad, or wrap). Hybl opened the very first gusto! on Peachtree Street across the street from Piedmont Hospital back in 2014.
"That first six months of that new opening was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," he recalls.
But like a quarterback running for the end zone, the concept took off; there are now seven gusto! locations in metro Atlanta, with three more set to open this year. The Chamblee location is the first with a drive-thru, something Hybl says he plans to eventually make the norm.
For this small-town guy turned big city restaurateur, winning over fans in this type of "bowl game" is as good as it gets.
"We are so proud to be an Atlanta-born brand, and we are so thankful for our communities keeping us alive. I mean, the last 12 months have been brutal on everybody, and keeping a business afloat has been difficult, but ... we're stronger for it."
For more information on gusto! and to find a location near you, click here.
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