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Financing

J.H. Whitney Capital buys Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

The 48-unit polished-casual chain has been on a steady growth path.
Photograph courtesy of Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Private-equity firm J.H. Whitney Capital Partners on Tuesday said it has acquired 48-unit Firebirds Wood Fired Grill from Angelo Gordon & Co. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition gives J.H. Whitney a steadily growing polished-casual chain. Firebirds was founded in 2000 and has since grown to 48 units. System sales grew 12% in 2017 to $161.3 million, according to Technomic, while unit volumes grew nearly 3% to $3.8 million.

“Firebirds’ guest-first culture and various industry recognitions are reflective of our continuous investment in our team members and customers,” Firebirds CEO Mark Eason said in a statement. “J.H. Whitney’s willingness to invest in the long-term success of our brand and the alignment with our core values make them the ideal partner to help us execute our growth strategy.”

Firebirds uses an exposed kitchen and a signature wood-fired grill, and offers a menu of seasoned wood-grilled steaks, seafood, burgers and salads along with cocktails and wine.

Angelo Gordon acquired the chain in 2011 when it had 18 locations.

Paul Vigano, J.H. Whitney’s senior managing director, said that Firebirds is “a unique brand” and has a “proven track record of profitability and growth and is run by a management team that is one of the most dynamic in the industry.” He said the plan is to work with management to accelerate the chain’s growth.

The deal is the first announced transaction of 2019 and continues a flourishing market for restaurant brands. More than 70 restaurant chains changed hands over the past two years, and several other concepts are currently on the market, including Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, Papa Murphy’s Pizza and Jack in the Box.

And P.F. Chang’s is reportedly near a $700 million sale of its own.

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