Montana entrepreneur throwing his hat into Boulder's fast-casual food scene with a Brazilian entree

General Manager Taylor Graham works on a lunch order for Jorge Elizondo at Five on Black Brazilian Grill on Thursday in the 29th Street Mall. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

General Manager Taylor Graham works on a lunch order for Jorge Elizondo at Five on Black Brazilian Grill on Thursday in the 29th Street Mall. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

By Charlie Howard

For the Camera

Link to Story: Here

Montana-based Five on Black, created three years ago by a university student who won a startup challenge, is making its first interstate move this year, with a new restaurant in Boulder and another planned for Denver.

Five on Black is a fast-casual Brazilian styled restaurant that opened its doors April 25 at the 29th Street Mall in Boulder.

Owner and Founder Tom Snyder launched the first Missoula location in May 2013, two years after his business idea for the restaurant won the Montana-wide John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge. Snyder said he was a senior in college when he won the competition.

The Boulder restaurant, located at 1805 29th St., is the chain's fourth location and its first outside Montana.

Snyder chose to expand into Colorado because of the region's affinity for high-quality fast-food.

"The Denver-Boulder area has really become the testing ground for fast-casual restaurants and has one of the strongest fast casual markets in the U.S.," Snyder said.

The NPD Group, a market research company, defines fast-casual restaurants as "upscale quick service restaurant concepts that offer more service and higher quality food than typical quick service restaurants."

It's a dining style Coloradans have embraced, according to NPD's research, and it has spawned a slew of locally based establishments.

A 2013 study by NPD showed that the Boulder metro area had the third most fast-casual chain units per-resident nationwide. The top two metro areas were the Fort Collins-Loveland metro area and the Denver metro area.

"There is a significant growth of fast-casual restaurants in Colorado," said Caroline Livingston, communications director for the Colorado Restaurant Association.

Some of these companies include Chipotle Mexican Grill, Mad Greens, Smashburger, Noodles & Company, Qdoba, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Garbonzo Mediterranean, Boston Market, Quiznos, Modern Market, Tokyo Joe's, Lark Burger, and many more, according to the Colorado Restaurant Association.

The name Five on Black comes from the menu, which provides five main dish options on top of a base of black beans, said Manager Taylor Graham.

"People love our food because of our fresh ingredients and our variety of options for different diets," Graham said. All of its offerings are gluten free.

Graham, who's been with Five on Black since its beginning in 2013, started out as a dishwasher at its original Missoula location.

Five on Black is opening a Denver location at 1617A California St. in early August, Graham said.