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Cava Group says it might go public

The fast-casual chain, which operates Cava Grill and Zoe's Kitchen, has confidentially filed SEC documents for an initial public offering.
Cava Group IPO
Cava Group is considering an IPO five years after its purchase of Zoe's Kitchen. / Photograph: Shutterstock.

Public company investors could soon have an opportunity to buy stock in the owner of Cava Grill.

Cava Group, which owns the fast-casual Mediterranean chain, along with what’s left of Zoe’s Kitchen, on Monday said it has confidentially filed documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering.

It would be the industry’s first IPO since five companies went public in 2021. As many as eight other companies have taken steps to go public but have yet to do so amid market volatility and inflation concerns. Cava’s step might be the first real indication that the market for restaurant IPOs may be warming.

At the same time, it comes amid a generally difficult market for acquisitions as higher interest rates and a relative lack of private equity buyers has made it challenging for sellers to get the returns they want in any sort of deal.

Cava acquired the publicly traded Zoe’s Kitchen in 2018 in a $300 million deal, funded largely by Act III Holdings, the investment firm founded by former Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich. Cava has been converting many of Zoe’s units to Cava locations in the years since then.

Check out Cava Group CEO Brett Schulman on the RB podcast A Deeper Dive.

Cava Group has taken on other investors in the years since then, including a $40 million round in 2019 and a $190 million round in 2021. The most recent round was led by T. Rowe Price Group.

Cava Grill finished 2021 with 170 locations and nearly $200 million in system sales, according to Technomic. Zoe’s operated 114 locations. But Zoe’s have been converted into Cava restaurants.

Several other restaurant chain operators, including Torchy’s Tacos, Fogo de Chao, MOD Pizza and others are said to at least be exploring IPOs.

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