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    Corner Bakery Cafes to Double on the Heels of Roark Acquisition, Chain Eyes Northeast


    Corner Bakery Cafes to Double and Chain Eyes Northeast - Kandessa Media

    The recent acquisition of Il Fornaio America Corp. by Roark Capital will bring big changes to the fast casual landscape. The multi-concept chain includes the upscale Italian Il Fornaio brand and Dallas-based Corner Bakery Cafe. According to Il Fornaio Corp. CEO Mike Hislop, the Corner Bakery Cafe concept will double its presence in four to five years, and has an eye on the Northeast and New England.

    "We still have numerous Tier One and Tier Two markets that are prompting a great deal of franchise interest in Corner Bakery Cafe," said Hislop. "New England is wide open, and in this region we’re looking at Boston, the New York metropolitan area including Connecticut, and Syracuse. Markets along the eastern seaboard in both North and South Carolina are also targets for us."

    The acquisition of the Corner Bakery Cafe chain by Atlanta-based Roark Capital will accelerate the 119-unit chain's growth plans. The franchise pipeline now stands at 200 openings, according to Hislop, with the strength of a current network of 15 area developer/franchise partners.

    Roark, a private equity firm that specializes in retail and restaurant franchise brands and has $1.5B under equity management confirmed Il Fornaio and Corner Bakery will operate independently, and not be folded into FOCUS Brands.

    Neither company would disclose specific post-acquisition store count targets to our publisher.

    "One of the first things we will do with Roark is to sit down and talk about the future growth plans for Corner Bakery [Cafe],” said Hislop. "They have a great deal of experience growing brands, and we look forward to learning from their experience and hearing their ideas about how we can better grow the Corner Bakery brand."

    The fast casual segment of quick-service restaurant (QSR) dining has a heightened awareness and value proposition during recessionary times. The purchase of the Bruegger's Bagels/Timothy's Coffee chain in March by Groupe Le Duff, followed by the accelerated urban neighborhood expansion of Panera Bread, has signaled additional consolidation and deals might be on the horizon.

    Another fast casual player, Boston-based Au Bon Pain, recently announced entry into new markets as well as an expanded remodel program to revitalize and refresh all of its cafés nationwide.

    Hislop notes that Roark's expertise and partnerships will bolster the Corner Bakery brand. "Roark’s contacts and resources will help us identify and connect with even more quality restaurant operators to guide our expansion through franchise development."

    While Roark Capital has seen much media focus on its restaurant acquisitions as of late, it confirms that it has not shifted its investment strategy to rely on restaurant franchising. Managing partner Aronson notes that in addition to investing in ten restaurant companies, Roark Capital also has 10 portfolio companies outside of the restaurant industry, including Pet Value, Batteries Plus and Fast Signs.

    "We will continue to actively pursue both food and non food, and both retail and service opportunities, in franchising.  Franchising is what we do, and we will continue to invest in it," said Roark's Aronson.

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    This story appears in:  Fast Casual | Franchise & Licensing