What will the combined company look like?
It’s always been in our DNA that we were a Mediterranean culinary brand, not necessarily a fast casual or a restaurant. We were born out of a full-service restaurant, but we then started to grow our consumer packaged goods in Whole Foods around the country, and then took elements of both of those businesses and put it in a fast, customized format, which is Cava.
We view bringing Zoës into our family as having another unique dining experience in the café format, in addition to the digital channels that we’re building out and that we’re looking forward to continuing to grow across both dining experiences and both menus. We can use our shared heritage to bring our Mediterranean culinary authority to guests across the country, to neighborhoods like Bethesda or Birmingham, Plano or Pasadena.
I think that’s what is really exciting, is it’s just another way to bring our great flavors and healthy, no-compromised Mediterranean food to any neighborhood in the country. Our food has always been food for everyone, and I think this really validates that and puts a stamp on our ability to service any community across the country.
What will the culinary approach look like with the combined brands?
We’re looking to bring our capabilities in all different ways to the Zoës team—whether it’s our culinary, whether it’s our technology, and whether it’s anything we’ve developed over the years as we’ve built Cava—and marry that with the great capabilities that the Zoës team has built over the years. We think the combined business can be really powerful, certainly with our production capabilities as well. We produce our own hummus; we produce our own tzatziki. We’re not buying it from a distributor. So I think having that self-production is a great part of what we can bring to our guests, producing high-quality ingredients ourselves rather than purchasing it from a distributor.
When did Ron Shaich get involved, and what was his role in this process?
I first met Ron about six years ago when we had two restaurants. I’d been connected to Ron through a mutual contact, and struck up a relationship with him. He’s been a great supporter of the brand since then, and we’ve been able to catch up annually. He was a small investor in Cava for the past few years, and more recently in our Series D, once he left his role as CEO of Panera, he became a more meaningful investor.
With this transaction, he’ll join as chairman of our board. He’s currently a board member, but will move into the chairman role. I think our whole team is excited to have more of Ron’s time to spend on the business and helping to support us as we embark on this combination, and really making Cava a national brand across the country. To have his expertise and experience at the table as guidance as we work through the challenges of putting these businesses together is invaluable.