Roark Capital invests in a fast casual specializing in Middle Eastern food

The parent company of Carl’s Jr., Arby’s and 16 other restaurant chains has made an equity investment in Naf Naf Grill, a 13-unit  fast-casual chain that specializes in street foods of the Middle East.  The capital will be used to expand Naf Naf, which currently operates in the greater Chicago area.

As part of the deal, Roark is placing two restaurant-industry veterans on Naf Naf’s board: Gary Beisler, the former CEO of Qdoba Mexican Grill, and George Condos, the president and COO of Arby’s until his retirement in April.  Naf Naf co-founders Sahar Sander and David Sloan will remain co-CEOs.

Naf Naf’s menu includes pita sandwiches, rice bowls and salads, all available with an array of sauces and other garnishes. Among its signatures are chicken shawarma and slow-roasted steaks.

Roark said the investment marks its first involvement with an emerging concept. Most of the restaurant brands it has acquired, directly or through its Focus Brands holding, are mature operations that needed rejuvenation, capital or a clearer direction. Those chains include such operations as Carvel, Auntie Anne’s, Il Fornaio, Corner Bakery, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s, Cinnabon, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Miller’s Ale House.

The private-equity company is in the process of spinning off one of its brands, the Wingstop chicken-wings chain, through a stock offering.

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