Financing

Slapfish secures investment to fuel growth

The fast-casual seafood concept has partnered with former NFL player Mac Haik, who now owns a “large stake” in the 23-unit brand.
slapfish burrito
Photograph courtesy of Slapfish

Sustainable seafood fast casual Slapfish has received a significant investment from restaurant franchisee and former NFL player Mac Haik to fuel the chain’s growth.

Haik, a former franchisee of The Egg & I and current franchisee of First Watch, Original ChopShop and Bellagreen, now owns a “large stake” in Slapfish while also becoming a franchisee with plans to open 30 restaurants over the next 10 years in Texas and Arkansas, Slapfish founder Andrew Gruel said.

“This is our first investment outside friends and family,” Gruel, chef and founder of the 7-year-old concept, told RB. “This group originally came to us seeking rights to Texas for a franchise. As we went into discovery and engagement, I realized our values were very aligned. … It was a good fit. They took a large stake in our company.”

slapfish storefront

Photograph courtesy of Slapfish

Gruel declined to reveal further details about the transaction.

Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Slapfish currently has 23 units, with four more locations slated to open by the end of 2019.

The concept started as a food truck and has sustained its growth by developing a range of footprints to fit in a variety of environments. In 2017, Slapfish opened a full-service raw bar spinoff at its flagship location in Tustin, Calif. Most recently, the chain launched Slapfish X, a 500-square-foot iteration with a “best of” menu scaled down to about 10 items, Gruel said. The first Slapfish X, a concept created for food halls, opened in July. Traditional Slapfish units are about 2,000 square feet, he said.

But there’s one avenue by which Gruel has no plans to grow: delivery.

As almost every chain pivots to meet off-premise demand, Slapfish dropped almost all of its third-party delivery partnerships about two months ago, he said. Delivery is still offered at restaurants operated by some franchisees. He hasn’t seen any drop in sales since eliminating delivery.

“Seafood doesn’t travel well,” he said, adding that Slapfish is still available for delivery via Postmates. “I’ve scaled back. … They weren’t coming to the stores, and people were getting their first experience through delivery partners. … We just don’t see the evidence that this was an add-on sale.”

The partnership with Mac Haik Enterprises, a group that also owns a variety of commercial real estate, car dealerships, an outdoor media company and more, will bring efficiencies to Slapfish as it ramps up for growth, Gruel said.

“It’s about fortifying our infrastructure,” he said. “This group brings so much to the table as far as infrastructure. We’re still a young brand. For us, it’s live and learn, and you could make some expensive mistakes.”

slapfish

Photograph courtesy of Slapfish

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