Modern Market Eatery launches first drive-thru as parent company continues investments in franchising growth path

Sister brand Qdoba to see remodels and new digital menu boards as Modern Restaurant Concepts refinances debt.
Modern Market Eatery
The first drive-thru unit opened last week in Colorado Springs, Colo. |Photo courtesy of Modern Market Eatery.

As it positions to grow with franchising, Modern Market Eatery now has a drive-thru format.

The Denver-based fast-casual chain last week opened its first drive-thru unit, which also offers dine-in. The restaurant offers the brand’s full from-scratch menu, as well as a Mini Market area with merchandise, like locally produced coffees, chocolates and brand merchandise.

The unit is also the 30-unit-chain’s third to feature a double-sided makeline, which is designed to speed service and throughput.

Co-founder and President Rob McColgan said in a statement, “This will be the first of many drive-thru locations we anticipate developing over the coming years to provide an even more efficient service model to handle the increasing volume of take-out orders.”

Modern Market Eatery was acquired by the private-equity firm Butterfly Equity, based in Los Angeles, in 2018 and merged with Los Angeles-based Lemonade to create the parent company Modern Restaurant Concepts (MRC). Last year, MRC also acquired the fast-casual Mexican chain Qdoba and the group recruited former Applebee’s president John Cywinski as CEO.

Over the past year, MRC sold the 20-unit Lemonade to focus on Qdoba and Modern Market. The company also launched franchising for Modern Market, bringing in a franchisee who bought three corporate locations and plans to open another 41 Modern Market Eateries over the next few years.

And MRC has also refranchised about 120 company-owned Qdoba units this year, bringing its franchise mix to about 80%. Cywinski plans to move forward with a more asset-light franchising model, saying the 750-unit Qdoba could double its unit count with a long-term target of about 1,500 restaurants.

He also said Qdoba would see some pruning this year, with about 15 underperforming units to close in fiscal 2023, and another 10 in 2024.

For its fiscal year ending Oct. 1, MRC said Qdoba’s same-store sales were up 6%, but the company did not indicate how traffic played into those sales figures.

This week, Butterfly announced the closing of a $305 million business securitization through Qdoba Funding LLC, the proceeds from which will be used to refinance existing debt and invest in things like 80 company-unit remodels and adding digital menu boards to 150 locations.

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