Ithaca's iconic Moosewood Restaurant appears poised for a major expansion. (Photo courtesy of VisitItahca.com)

ITHACA, N.Y. — A new executive at Moosewood Restaurant is hoping to turn the Ithaca icon into a $190 million “fast casual” chain, according to documents he appears to have posted online.

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Moosewood, known around the country for its vegetarian menu and distinctive flavors, has long been known to be collectively owned.

Keith Rogers, CEO of KEEGA Ventures, says in online records that he is the acting chief operating officer of Moosewood and that KEEGA “is acquiring everything,” including Moosewood’s “historic flagship location, James Beard awards, cookbooks that have sold over 3 million copies, the press value that comes with the brand, and most importantly, Moosewood’s iconic, powerful story.”

Ithaca’s iconic Moosewood Restaurant appears poised for a major expansion. (Photo courtesy of VisitItahca.com)

The details of the document have not been confirmed by the Ithaca Voice. Jennifer Tavares, president of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, said on Thursday that it’s her understanding that Rogers became the COO of Moosewood in January. She also said she could not confirm plans of the expansion.

“I was informed they brought him on board as COO in January,” Tavares said.

When a phone call was placed to Moosewood Restaurant’s location at 214 North Cayuga Street on Thursday, staff there gave a number for a general manager. That general manager answered a call, declined to comment immediately and has not returned a phone call since. (We’ll update this story if she does so.)

The document, posted on SlideShare.net, follows months of swirling rumors about the fate of Moosewood. In a conversation earlier this summer, Moosewood’s Wynnie Stein declined to comment, but said that she would call the Ithaca Voice when the news was ready to be released.

If it comes to pass, the expansion of Moosewood would represent a major change for what has long been touted as a local landmark. Bon Appetit Magazine called Moosewood “one of the 13 Most Influential Brands of the 20th Century” and its cookbooks have sold widely around the world since it opened in 1973 on the first floor of the Dewitt Mall.

“The Moosewood Cookbook,” The New York Times wrote in a 1989 profile of one author, was one of a few that “captured the spirit of a generation of epicures who brought their idealism and global awareness to food.”

It’s that image that Rogers, the COO, says he hopes will attract diners — and investors.

“With an experienced restaurant operations team and award-winning social and technology innovators, we are expanding Moosewood — a pioneer in healthful, sustainable, and delicious eating — into the $24 billion fast casual market,” the KEEGA Ventures document says.

“Driven by Chioptle, sustainable and healthful food is positioned for long-term growth and we have the brand that started the trend of sustainable, healthful, delicious food.”

To that end, the document outlines financial projects: $7.6 million for year 1; $47 million for year 3; and $190 million for year five.

The LinkedIn profile of Keith Rogers, new COO of Moosewood Restaurant

Rogers, the COO of Moosewood and CEO of KEEGA Ventures, was a general manager of Starbucks Entertainment and a district manager of Potbelly Sandwich Works, according to his LinkedIn profile.

A graduate of the Cornell Hotel School’s class of 1991, Rogers has also taught business at Stratford University, was the principal at “Edify Leadership” and is a contributor to the Fox Business Network.

“I’m currently raising capital funding for acquisition of world renowned natural foods brand and restaurant company with plans to scale across multiple channels,” Rogers writes on his CrowdFunder page. “Looking for the right investment partners (Angel or Private Equity) that align with core values & vision. Building an Investment portfolio of best-in-class Food & Beverage Brands for scaled growth & (Return on Investment).”

Rogers could not be reached for comment immediately. On his Twitter page, he also highlights his role in “Moosewood Holdings.”

His top Tweet, from March 20, reads: “Exciting news is coming soon!”

It links to the following website (screenshots below):

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.