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Mendocino Farms gets new chief following PE purchase

Casual-dining veteran Harald Herrmann has taken over as CEO of Mendocino Farms following the purchase of a controlling interest in the fast-casual chain by TPG Growth, a private-equity firm with holdings in Philz Coffee, Airbnb and Spotify.

The buyers include the husband and wife founders of Mendocino, Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen, though they remain minority shareholders. Equity was also tendered by L Catterton, a frequent investor in restaurant companies.

Amazon also apparently holds a minority interest through its purchase earlier this year of Whole Foods, which invested in Mendocino two years ago.

Terms of TPG’s deal were not disclosed.

The purchase returns Herrmann to his first full-time management role since leaving Darden Restaurants last year. Herrmann, best known for building the Yard House brewpub concept into a high-volume powerhouse ultimately acquired by Darden for $585 million, continued to lead that chain after the purchase. He rose to become president of Darden’s Specialty Restaurant Group, which also include Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze.

Herrmann said at the time that he left Florida-based Darden to return to Southern California, the previous headquarters of Yard House and the home still of his family.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Mario, Ellen, and the Mendocino Farms team,” Herrmann said in a prepared statement. “They have built a great business and culture thus far, and we look forward to introducing more Californians and consumers across the country to Mendocino Farms.”

Though extending only to 16 locations, Mendocino has drawn attention with its high sales volumes and reputation among consumers as the place to get all-fresh, high-quality sandwiches.

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