COLUMBUS, OHIO — Restaurateur Bradley D. Blum and investment firm GP Investments, Ltd. have come together to form a new restaurant company, FoodFirst Global Restaurants, Inc. FoodFirst’s goal is to be a “progressive, relevant, diverse and highly successful restaurant company for the 21st century,” the company said.
“This inspired partnership that has created FoodFirst Global Restaurants represents an entrepreneurial endeavor with all parties contributing significant capital and professional skill,” Mr. Blum said. “As a private company, the board of directors can take a long-term view and allow the leadership team to focus on developing superior restaurant brands that serve superior food with a superior guest experience. We will set up our diverse employee teams for success, starting with the critical importance of having superior restaurant general managers who are well trained leaders. We believe that focus will create a virtuous cycle that will quickly result in superior profitability. GP Investments is the perfect partner to develop this unique, differentiated company. The opportunities for growth and expansion are significant.”
FoodFirst Global Restaurants already has acquired its first brands — Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana — in a $100 million transaction that closed May 24. Brio and Bravo operate 110 locations in 32 states across the country and reported annual sales of more than $400 million in 2017. FoodFirst now plans to refresh the brands.
“We will do this by relentlessly focusing on the quality of the food, improving the menu, sharpening the operations, remodeling the restaurants and delivering a highly differentiated guest experience,” Mr. Blum said. “We took the company private so we could invest in the company. That begins with our almost 10,000 employees who represent the face of the Brio and Bravo brands. By being a private company, this has enabled the liquidity crisis to be solved with much lower debt on the balance sheet and significant investment capital added to profitably grow the business.”
Mr. Blum has extensive restaurant industry experience, including serving as a board director for Darden Restaurants, Inc. and a board director, strategic partner and investor in LEON Restaurants. He was previously chief executive officer of Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Burger King, and before that was president of Olive Garden. Earlier in his career, Mr. Blum was chief marketing officer for Cereal Partners Worldwide and held various marketing and management positions at General Mills, Inc.
Brazil-based GP Investments’ restaurant industry experience includes ownership of the Fogo De Chao brand, which it expanded into the United States. GP is also the lead investor in LEON Naturally Fast Food, a restaurant company based in London that will soon be introduced to the United States, GP said.
“Brad has a proven track record with multiple restaurant companies,” said Antonio Bonchristiano, c.e.o. of GP Investments and vice-chairman of FoodFirst Global Restaurants. “That is why we are making this investment. His diverse teams drive profitability by creating a great culture, focusing on the food, achieving operations excellence, consistently offering an enjoyable guest experience and providing strong brand communication. As owner-partners, we place our confidence in his leadership and that of his team. We expect a long, profitable relationship.”
FoodFirst Global Restaurants’ board of directors will include Mr. Blum as chairman and c.e.o., Mr. Bonchristiano as vice-chairman, Bob Mock (former Darden executive) as chief operations officer, and Diane Reed (chief financial officer for Bravio and Brio since October) as c.f.o.