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Dominik Stein and Michael Heyne: A Taste of Home

By India Ogazi

Dominik Stein and Michael Heyne

When Dominik Stein and Michael Heyne, both MBA '11 and owners of the fast-growing restaurant chain VERTS Mediterranean Grill, say they have the best hummus, they would know. Together, they tried more than 150 flavors and brands, from every grocery store chain in Texas.

They were committed to providing their customers with a house-made hummus that could go head-to-head with the best. "We really bought every hummus in the marketplace and didn’t stop until ours was better," says Heyne.

"If you execute that in every element, then it’s just better food. This is the biggest focus for us."

The German transfer students were inspired by the Turkish street food they grew up eating and opened their first VERTS location, on the Guadalupe "Drag" in Austin, just two days after completing their MBAs at McCombs.

The concept: healthy, authentic recipes created by Michelin chefs using all-natural ingredients like quinoa, rotisserie meats, fresh vegetables, and made-from-scratch sauces and spreads, like tzatziki and, of course, hummus.

In just six years, the long-time friends have grown their business from two locations in Austin to more than 24 throughout Texas. In 2016, they opened locations in Boston and New York, and this year, Philadelphia.

"Our mission is to become the culinary leader in fast-casual Mediterranean," says Stein, who was recognized this year in Forbes' "30 Under 30" in food and drink. With a 700-page business plan and a team of believers behind them, the friends' restaurants were an instant hit. They began with 25 investors and now have more than 300 funders and $45 million in investment capital. Their success has attracted executives from Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, and Chipotle to join the company — a sign of accomplishment for the young entrepreneurs.

"We have an aggressive plan to open 20 more locations this year, 40 next year, and 250 in total by the end of 2020," says Stein.

They credit much of their success to their McCombs education. Heyne says that all the time spent in classes learning about small business, finance, marketing, products, and real estate was invaluable."We are still in contact with different professors from UT today," he says.”Having professors we can lean on and go back to and ask questions, we feel so supported.

From the spring 2017 issue of McCombs, the magazine for alumni and friends of the McCombs School of Business.

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