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California restaurant chain drinks from KKR’s cup

KKR & Co. has acquired a minority stake in Lemonade Restaurant Group LLC, a cafeteria-style restaurant chain that describes itself as a “Southern Californian smorgasbord.”

The Los Angeles company’s founder, chef Alan Jackson, said KKR’s investment will allow Lemonade to embark on a significant expansion. The company currently operates 14 locations on the West Coast and two in the Middle East.

“We feel that KKR are brand-builders, that they would be the right team to help Lemonade become a regional brand or something even bigger in the future,” Mr. Jackson said in an interview.

Private-equity and venture capital funds are increasingly betting on health-focused fast-casual food concepts, following the outsized success of chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Zoe's Kitchen Inc.

Revolution LLC, a firm led by AOL Inc. co-founder Steve Case, last year invested $22 million in U.S.-based salad restaurant company Sweetgreen Inc., while Calculus Capital earlier this year participated in a financing round for U.K.-based salad bar chain Chop’d.

Lemonade plans to grow to 40 locations by 2016, Mr. Jackson said, initially focusing on adding stores in California, Texas and Hawaii. It may ultimately expand to Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia through strategic partnerships.

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