Investment firm FG Financial Group announced Thursday that it's partnering with former Jimmy John's CEO Gregg Majewski to create a new platform of "highly scalable" fast casuals, with the potential of more acquisitions.
The group, called Craveworthy, comprises existing restaurants that it acquired—Wing It On! and The Budlong Hot Chicken—and new concepts Krafted Burger + Tap and The Lucky Cat Poke Company. The combined platform features six company-owned stores and 13 franchised outlets, with another 18 franchises under development.
Majewski will serve as CEO of Craveworthy. He previously worked as Jimmy John's CEO, CFO, and COO from 1998 to 2003 where he expanded the chain from 33 to 300 restaurants, sold 600 franchises, and boosted gross margins by 7.4 percent in two years. The industry veteran was responsible for introducing new incentive, training, and franchise programs and implementing Jimmy John's "Freak Fast" delivery marketing strategy. Since June 2021, he continues to serve as CEO of Mongolian Concepts Restaurant Group, the parent of Genghis Grill, FlatTop Grill, and BD's Mongolian Grill.
Majewski said Craveworthy is currently "cultivating potential acquisition opportunities" to help build the platform. Joining him are veterans with experience at McDonald’s, First Watch, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Roti, and Giordano’s Pizza. Collectively, they bring nearly 200 years of restaurant industry experience.
In terms of organic growth, Craveworthy's focus will be franchising The Budlong and Wing It On!, solidifying existing operations, and developing more corporately owned restaurants.
“I’ve seen the restaurant world from so many perspectives over the years, and it is clear to me that the industry requires a new way of thinking given the new cost structure and commoditized experiences out there now," Majewski said in a statement. "That’s why we created Craveworthy. We have a clean slate but a ton of relevant industry ‘muscle power’ to come out of the gates strong and sustain it."
"The new company clearly has the potential to provide many pathways for our employees and franchisees to live and achieve the American Dream,” he added. “The resources we’re bringing together are capable of creating remarkable value for consumers and restaurant operators.”
Wing It On! is the biggest restaurant, with 12 open locations. In 2022, the brand's unit count grew 70 percent year-over-year, including franchise expansion into Long Island, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Orlando. The company began in Connecticut, where it has three stores. Founder Matt Ensero will remain as brand president.
The wing chain is now based in Raleigh, North Carolina, while Krafted and The Budlong are solely in the Greater Chicago market. The Budlong has three traditional locations, one food hall outlet, and one ghost kitchen. Krafted started in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and a second unit will soon debut in Elmhurst. The Lucky Cat will open its first brick-and-mortar during Q1 in Oak Brook, Illinois, in addition to 55 ghost kitchens.
“There’s no denying we’re placing our flag in the ground,” chef Robert Kabakoff said in a statement. “Our portfolio of brands will benefit from incredible shared resources. Given the changing restaurant world, now is the time for a team like Craveworthy’s to take its place in the industry.”
Craveworthy is the second project under FG Financial Group's merchant banking division, which was first announced in September. The new entity intends to organize and sponsor "fundamentally strong businesses and creating new structures across multiple industries and stages of growth."
"I’ve known Gregg for several years and I’m excited to be partnering with him on Craveworthy," FG Financial Group CEO Larry Swets said in a statement. "He’s a great operator whose had significant success in his career. We believe he can bring that success to Craveworthy. The formation of Craveworthy is further evidence of the capabilities of our Merchant Banking team. We look forward to growing Craveworthy into a leading restaurant brand platform."