Industry News | February 11, 2002

Wendy's Invests in Fast-Casual Concept Cafe Express

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As part of the Company's mergers and acquisitions strategy, Wendy's International management announced plans to make a $9 million to $10 million investment in Cafe Express, a concept Wendy's calls a leader in the emerging fast-casual restaurant segment.

Cafe Express operates thirteen restaurants in Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix, and is led by founders Lonnie Schiller and Robert Del Grande, a renowned chef. Schiller and Del Grande will continue to manage the chain, which was founded in 1984.

Cafe Express features high quality food that consumers might consider "upscale bistro.'' The menu includes pastas, salads, sandwiches, roasted chicken, soups, and side dishes. The home-made food is prepared to order with quality ingredients such as Healthy Choice® deli meats, all-natural chicken breasts, albacore tuna, imported cheeses and European-style baked breads.

The average size of the restaurants is 5,500 square feet with a full kitchen, counter service and an "Oasis'' bar where customers customize their food with condiments such as imported extra-virgin olive oils, parmesan cheese, Dijon mustard, fine vinegars and olives, capers, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Cookies, brownies, and desserts are made fresh, from scratch, every day, on site. And every location has a bar serving a selection of beer and wine as well as cappuccinos and espressos.

The restaurants feature a contemporary design and have seating for 125 to 150 people on the inside with outside seating on patios.

Average unit volumes are $2.2 million, and the average check is about $9.50.

"Cafe Express is an outstanding concept that features high quality food with flavors that are right on trend,'' said Wendy's chairman and CEO Jack Schuessler. "They feature counter service so customers have control over their dining experience. It's a great blend of outstanding food, customization, and environment. We are very impressed with the management team and their focus on restaurant operations and quality. They have the same values and principals that we do.

"Our goal is to provide access to capital for Cafe Express so that they can grow the concept,'' Schuessler said. "We offer their management team access to our areas of expertise and experience strength such as restaurant operations, new restaurant development, site selection, research, and marketing.''