We’re Expanding to Civic Center
Bi-Rite Cafe, located at 52 Grove Street, will open at Civic Center Plaza on October 24, 2018. We sat down with Sam Mogannam, Founding Partner of the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, to learn more about this exciting new outlet and get his take on Bi-Rite’s impact on a new neighborhood.
Bi-Rite Cafe at Civic Center Plaza is an exciting new venue for the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses. Tell us, how did this opportunity first come about?
We were first approached over a year ago by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, who were looking for a community-minded, local food provider to operate a cafe next to the playground they were building on Civic Center Plaza. I was honored Bi-Rite was their first choice and I was immediately excited. This was a unique opportunity to collaborate with not only the Helen Diller Family Foundation but also with The Trust for Public Land, the San Francisco Rec and Park Department, and the Civic Center Community Benefit District. I knew working with these public entities as a private enterprise would be a unique challenge, but after learning more I realized we shared the same passion for community building. Since we are mission and vision aligned, which is critical for this type of collaboration, I knew this was the right partnership and we quickly moved forward. And frankly, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a cafe, designed by an awesome architect, next to world-class playgrounds, with City Hall in the background, in the city I grew up in.
Under your leadership Bi-Rite has expanded to include two Markets, a Creamery, a full-service event catering business, and a small Sonoma farm. Why now a cafe?
Having come from the restaurant business (I owned a restaurant in San Francisco’s financial district for seven years before reopening Bi-Rite in 1998), and having a team of chefs at Bi-Rite who have worked in some of San Francisco’s best restaurants, we felt pretty confident we could do something special and different. It was also an opportunity to bring the offerings from our Market delis and the Creamery together, and to have a space for our guests to sit and hang out in an outdoor setting right in front of City Hall. This is what I live for and is completely in line with our mission of Creating Community Through Food. It’s a place for people to pause, connect, and engage. We simply couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
Supporting the neighborhoods in which Bi-Rite operates is a vital component to Bi-Rite’s mission. What is Bi-Rite’s approach to building community in the Civic Center neighborhood?
The Civic Center is such an important, iconic part of San Francisco and we’re proud to bring our fresh, healthy, and delicious food to this neighborhood. The way we approached this expansion is similar to how we opened our Divisadero Market in 2013. We’ve been in conversation with members of the neighborhood from the very beginning, focusing on building relationships and establishing an open dialogue with our future neighbors. Rachel Kiichli, our Community and Social Responsibility Manager, is actively involved in shaping those relationships, as am I, along with our broader leadership team and Cafe team, led by Marika Fleeger, a longtime Bi-Rite leader. I’m really looking forward to a partnering with the SF Main Library as well, having them across the street will make it convenient to collaborate. And we are committed to hiring from the community, keeping the surrounding area clean and safe, and supporting the Civic Center community in any other ways we can.
What can people expect to find at Bi-Rite Cafe? How will it be different from other businesses in the Family?
It’s different in a lot of ways. First off, there is no actual interior space at the Cafe. Ordering will take place at a window and seating will be outside, true cafe-style. The immediate outdoor area around the Cafe will be our space, and our team will create a casual and fun eating experience. We’ve also been very intentional about making our menu different than what you may find at our Markets. You may spot a few familiar items but for the most part, it will be a completely new Bi-Rite eating experience, backed by our long-standing pillars of personal service and responsible, tasty food.
We’re also really excited to unveil our coffee program, in partnership with Sightglass Coffee, something that’s brand new to the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses. Learning the art of pouring a perfect cappuccino has been a lot of fun!
As Bi-Rite’s founding partner, what are you most excited for with this expansion?
As a native San Franciscan, I’m excited and proud to see a liveliness at Civic Center and for the Plaza to be used in a new, positive way. It’s been so uplifting for me to see hundreds of kids playing at the Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds every day. I hope to see even more families come out, spend the afternoon at the playground, sipping espresso, eating a healthy salad and enjoying some of our delicious soft serve ice cream. It is going to be so rewarding to see our Civic Center Plaza thriving in a new way, where all San Franciscans and visitors can share a destination and, together, create community through food.
Bi-Rite Market is located at 52 Grove Street, at the corner of Larkin. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 7am-5pm and 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday.