The concept and menu are unique, and the price are considered expensive, but in the next five years, there could be 10 Protein House locations across Massachusetts.
Protein House was founded in 2012 with the fitness community in mind and a menu that caters to the health-conscious.
At the first Massachusetts franchise, located in Marlborough, there are about 150 regulars who stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner five days a week, according to franchise partner and owner Viktor Ryan.
But the small chain is not just for bodybuilders and the conscious. There are plenty of people who stop by the Marlborough restaurant on days that they just want a healthier option.
Those coming visiting Protein House are a mix of people in gym clothes, coming or going to a workout, while some come in wearing business attire, popping open a laptop to work while sipping on a smoothie or digging into an acai bowl.
Acai is wildly popular in Marlborough. Ryan said his restaurant sells five times the acai of the eight other Protein House locations across the country. He believes that because New England has a colder climate and lack of acai, Protein House has become a destination spot for the superfood.
“The unique part of our acai is it’s all organic, no sugar added, and we add protein to it, so it’s just like a quick dessert. It’s also a good source of protein,” Ryan said on Thursday afternoon, sitting on the Protein House patio in Marlborough.
Protein House’s Marlborough restaurant is crisp, with simple black and white decor and a few pops of color from plants.
The kitchen is slightly open, giving guests a small peek into the food-making process. A shelf holding dozens of bananas and an array of protein powders are visible.
On the wide menu, there are plenty of gluten-free options and the ability to make most meals vegan.
Some customers have come from as far away as New Hampshire and Road Island to try the Marlborough Protein House, Ryan said.
“It’s more than just a business,” said Ryan, who grew up in Marlborough and now lives in Worcester. “For me, it’s been really cool to see the community try to make a change.”
Ryan is in the process of building out a Protein House location in Worcester and anticipates a November opening.
The restaurant will be located at the 145 Front St. building in downtown Worcester. Protein House was slated to open at 145 Front in July, but there were delays with the development.
“I don’t want to point fingers, but their development fell a little behind,” Ryan said.
The Worcester lease was signed before the Marlborough lease, Ryan said. Because the Apex Center came to fruition quickly, Ryan said he focused on that location more amid the delays in Worcester.
The Worcester location will look similar to the Marlborough restaurant and is a co-tenancy with Fidelity Bank, for which there will be interior access.
The space has high ceilings, Ryan said, and will have an outdoor patio that stretches from Front Street to Foster Street.
Ryan said the downtown Worcester spot stood out to him as a perfect fit for Protein House, as the city is in the midst of a renaissance of dining and development.
In Marlborough, Protein House has good relationships with nearby Title Boxing Club, Orangetheory Fitness and Planet Fitness. Ryan hopes to create similar relationships in Worcester.
“I was into bodybuilding in Worcester for a few years,” he said. “I always worked out in Worcester and I know the fitness community in Worcester is huge.”
Ryan hopes the restaurant will draw workers out of their cafeterias and into downtown.
Protein House’s aesthetic reads upscale, with small touches like a whole shelving unit for various hot sauces and salt and pepper shakers that hold a mixed peppercorn blend and pink Himalayan sea salt.
The prices read upscale, too.
“I think the biggest thing, as a fitness enthusiast, don’t ask why it’s so expensive. Ask why bad food is so cheap,” he said. “Yeah, we’re expensive. We’re pricey. You’re getting good portions. You’re getting good alternatives, obviously very healthy options.”
Aside from Worcester and Marlborough, it is not yet clear where other Protein House locations could open. Ryan said he is eyeing a lease in Watertown, and will look for space that could be a good fit in Boston, the north and south shores, or maybe Burlington or Quincy.
Protein House has nine locations in the country, including several in Arizona as well as in McAllen, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Aurora, Colorado; Brea, California; and Las Vegas.
The Marlborough location is at 90D Apex Drive and is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.