Want to get into the fast casual game? Check out two concepts that are doing it right.
Concept: Barbeque is king at this 23-unit concept headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.
Founder: Rick Malir opened the first location in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, in 1999.
Background: Malir, who has won awards on the competitive barbecue circuit with his cooking team, catered barbecue events from his garage in Columbus.
Menu: Pork, beef and other proteins with emphasis on free-range and all natural with some local ingredient sourcing. Employees cut meats in front of customers; made-to-order sandwiches.
Check average: $12 to $15, with beverage
Decor: Rustic, roadhouse-style with reclaimed barn boards and other woods for tables and seating.
Growth capital: Bootstrapped first unit; combination of bank debt and cash flow to open outlets.
Expansion strategy: Two City Barbeque outlets—North Carolina and Kentucky—to open in 2015. Prefers sites in strong suburban neighborhoods. Goal is to launch three more locations.
Concept: Build-your-own pizza, headquartered in Washington, D.C., featuring a TurboChef conveyor oven that cooks pizzas in just under two minutes. Twelve locations with more on the way.
Founders: Michael Lastoria and Steve Salis, co-founders
Background: Entrepreneurs Salis and Lastoria, who have beverage and advertising backgrounds, moved from New York to D.C. for their first unit on H Street in mid-2012. They hired architect Thaddeus Briner of Architecture Outfit to design it, who also designed Chipotle’s ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen.
Menu: Customers line up and choose from three types of dough (traditional, ancient grains or gluten free), eight sauces and spreads, three cheeses, and a variety of meat and vegetable toppings. “Finishes” include garlic oil, oregano oil, red pepper chili oil and tzatziki yogurt.
Check average: $10 to $12, with beverage.
Decor: Black and white brick walls; customers share long communal tables.
Growth capital: Ruby Tuesday founder and strategic advisor Sandy Beall is among the investors.
Expansion strategy: Open locations in the Northeast (including Boston) and urban outlets before launching in the suburbs.
Concepts That Landed the Capital
- In 2011, Brentwood Associates began funding a Los Angeles vegetarian concept called Veggie Grill. Since then, it has grown from seven outlets to 28 in California, Oregon and Washington.
- Private equity firm Catterton has recently provided growth capital for Piada Italian Street Food, Mendocino Farms and Protein Bar.
- KarpReilly recently funded Patxi’s Pizza, a 15-unit concept in the San Francisco Bay area; 70 outlets on the West Coast are set to open within the next five years. The firm also owns controlling interest in Burger Lounge, a fast casual gourmet burger concept.