Viewpoint — December 2017

2017 – It was an interesting year!
by Bob Gershberg, CEO/Managing Partner Wray Executive Search

Bob Gershberg, Managing Partner/CEO Wray Executive Search

In January of this year, at the ICR Exchange, the industry CEOs, analysts and a few of our favorite curmudgeons all concurred. The legacy, casual dining brands would continue their downward spiral. The rest would have a good year. Sales would be strong. Commodities would be controlled. The only anticipated headwinds were around labor and labor-related costs. Well, we were right about the casual dining brand's continued downward spiral. We were certainly correct about the labor cost headwinds. The rest...not so much!

Mergers and Acquisitions in our arena went wild, no pun intended.  More than thirty deals as follows:

  • JAB Holding bought Panera Bread Co. for $7.5B.
  • Restaurant Brands International Inc. bought Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. for $1.8B.
  • Arby’s and Roark Capital buy Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. for $2.9B.
  • Darden Restaurants Inc. bought Cheddar’s for $780M.
  • NRD Capital bought Ruby Tuesday Inc. for $335M.
  • Golden Gate Capital bought Bob Evans Restaurants for $565M.
  • Landry’s bought what’s left of Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. for $55M.
  • Advent International bought majority stake in First Watch. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • Freeman Spogli bought Café Rio for undisclosed amount.
  • Caribou and JAB buy Bruegger’s Bagels. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • Panera Bread and JAB buy Au Bon Pain. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • Oak Hill Capital Partners bought Checker’s for $525M.
  • Capital­Spring takes majority stake in Beef O’Brady’s.
  • Great American Cookie Franchise Group bought Round Table Pizza for an undisclosed amount.
  • Beekman Investment Partners III bought majority stake in Another Broken Egg.
  • Roark Capital Group acquires Jim ‘N Nicks. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • L Catterton bought Uncle Julio’s for an undisclosed amount.
  • Fat Brands bought Homestyle Dining for $10.5M.
  • Fat Brands bought Hurricane Grill for $12.5M.
  • Garden Fresh sold to private equity groups Perpetual Capital Partners and CR3 Capital LLC. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • Hojeij Branded Foods bought Vino Volo. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • Private equity groups, Balmoral Funds and Gala Capital, buy Mooyah Burgers for undisclosed amount.
  • Nestle bought majority stake in Blue Bottle Coffee. Nestlé reportedly bought a 68-percent share of the company valued at $700M.
  • Ninety-Nine Restaurant to merge with J. Alexander’s.
  • TPG Growth bought majority stake in Mendocino Farms for an undisclosed amount.
  • Yo! Sushi bought Bento Sushi for $78M.
  • MTY Food Group, Inc. agrees to acquire The Counter and Built Custom Burgers for undisclosed amount.
  • Cleveland Avenue LLC acquired majority stake in PizzaRev for undisclosed amount.
  • Argosy Private Equity and MTN Capital Partners acquire Rita’s Italian Ice for an undisclosed amount.
  • Franchisee Charles Loflin acquires Hispanic-oriented brand Pizza Patrón for undisclosed amount.
  • Premier Restaurant Group, owner of Forever Yogurt, acquires Cheeburger Cheeburger for undisclosed amount.
  • Axum Capital bought Back Yard Burgers for an undisclosed amount.

Some good news as we wrap up the year, indeed. Sales in October and November are finally pulling up, albeit somewhat meagerly. We are cautiously bullish on 2018 as the industry learns how to deal with changing consumer trends. Earlier this year, Steve Sadove, former Chairman & CEO at Saks, proclaimed, “There is nothing wrong with consumer spending, they are just spending it differently!” This can be applied to the restaurant arena as well.

Onward and upward.

May the holiday season bring you and your circle, good health and good cheer!

All the best, 


Bob Gershberg |CEO|Managing Partner|
(888) 875-9993 ext 102

Finding tomorrow’s leaders today!


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