Fuzzy's Taco Shop majority owner NRD Capital announced Tuesday that it's forming a new restaurant platform that will "acquire truly experiential brands in the food and beverage space."
The new company is called Experiential Brands, with Fuzzy's becoming the first member and the example of the "growth oriented franchised brands" the company will look to purchase. Paul Damico, CEO of the nearly 150-unit taco chain, will also serve as Experiential's chief executive.
The industry veteran has familiarity with multi-concept companies; he previously worked as CEO of Global Franchise Group, which oversaw Round Table Pizza, Great American Cookies, Hot Dog on a Stick, Marble Slab Creamery and Pretzelmaker, and as president of Focus Brands, a company that operates Moe's Southwest Grill, Auntie Anne's, Jamba, Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky's, and McAlister's Deli.
“Paul is an experienced veteran in the restaurant franchise industry and has a proven track record of successfully scaling and growing franchised brands, most notably growing Moe’s Southwest Grill from 200 to 700 units, making him the ideal fit for this role,” Aziz Hashim, founder and managing partner of NRD Capital, said in a statement.
NRD acquired a majority share of Fuzzy's in 2016, back when the chain had 90 units. The private-equity firm also has investments in Frisch's Big Boy and The Captain's Boil.
While managing the multi-brand portfolio, Damico plans to double Fuzzy's footprint in the next five years, which will likely be through multiple growth levers. The chain unveiled a new Taqueria concept in March that features a reduced menu in a slimmer, to-go focused box. While a traditional Fuzzy's location is 3,000 to 4,000 square feet, the Taqueria prototype is between 1,200 to 1,800 square feet. The first iteration opened in Minnesota, a new market for the brand.
“While the industry has seen an increase in online ordering and delivery, we believe there is still a place in the market for guests who are searching for a ‘dining experience.’ Fuzzy’s Taco Shop is a prime example of why we believe this model to be successful,” Damico said in a statement. “There is an experience our fans love about Fuzzy’s in addition to the Baja flavor profile of the food. Whether it’s the full bar, our laid-back patios, the music, TVs, or overall ambiance, guests seek out the physical restaurant to get the full Fuzzy’s experience.”