PepperJax Grill, a regional chain based in Omaha, is coming to Wichita with at least three restaurants and possibly four.
“We are going to go national across the United States,” says president and CEO Gary Rohwer.
Currently, there are 40 restaurants in the chain “that is growing quite rapidly,” he says.
The first Wichita location will be in front of Lowe’s near 29th Street North and Maize Road in the 2,400-square-foot space Cinnamon’s Deli was in until late last year.
“Our signature item is what we refer to as America’s best Philly,” Rohwer says.
PepperJax also has gourmet rice bowls on its menu along with a burrito, nachos and salads.
Previously, Rohwer says, he invented a quick-cook cheesesteak called Steak-EZE that he marketed nationally before retiring.
Then, in 2002, a friend introduced him to Chipotle Mexican Grill before it was big nationally.
“That was my light bulb moment when I saw a great, great opportunity,” Rohwer says.
He watched Chipotle workers assemble food in front of guests.
“I said, ‘Why not cook to order in front of the customer?’ ”
So PepperJax customers stand in a line similar to Chipotle, place an order for what meat they want and how they want it cooked and then move down the line for other choices.
Rohwer expects to open the Maize Road PepperJax in about four months.
“We’re going to be inking a second Wichita lease … probably in about another three weeks,” he says.
He’s also working on a freestanding drive-through site. The first two PepperJax restaurants won’t have drive-throughs.
Adam Clements of Builders Inc. and Krista Racine of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the Maize Road deal.
Rohwer says he may consider adding a fourth location depending on how the first three Wichita PepperJax restaurants do.
“We think it’s a outstanding market.”