Saladworks Parent WOWorks Buys Barberitos and Zoup!

    With the move, the company now owns six fast casuals and will operate more than 400 restaurants combined by the end of 2022. 

    Fast Casual | May 12, 2022 | Ben Coley
    Zoup! Eatery soup and salad.
    Zoup! Eatery
    With the purchase, WOWorks now owns six fast casuals: Baberitos, Zoup!, Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, and The Simple Greek.

    Saladworks parent WOWorks announced Thursday that it acquired fast casuals Barberitos and Zoup! Eatery. 

    Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. 

    The Athens, Georgia-based Barberitos, a make-your-own burrito, taco, bowl, and salad concept, operates 50 franchise restaurants and four company-operated units, primarily in the Southeast.

    Meanwhile, Zoup!, a Southfield, Michigan-based chain with 12 rotating daily soups, oversees 67 franchises and one corporate store. Zoup! Speciality Products, designed to bring the brand's broth items to retail, will be operated separately by founder and previous CEO Eric Ersher. 

    "These brands share our overall goal to grow into one of the largest plant-forward, good-for-you companies in the restaurant sector," WOWorks CEO Kelly Roddy said in a statement. "Equally as important, both brands are in direct alignment with our WOWorks Vision, Mission and Shared Values (BE Passionate, BE Inventive, BE Accountable, BE Fulfilled, and BE Real). They are dedicated to fueling the passions of their team members, guests, partners and communities to give everyone the opportunity to live their best life."

    Barberitos and Zoup! are the fifth and sixth chains to join WOWorks, following Saladworks, Frutta Bowls, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, and The Simple Greek. Combined, the multi-brand company will end 2022 with more than 400 restaurants while creating more than 10,000 job opportunities. 

    WOWorks formed in December 2020 when Centre Lane Partners, the owner of Saladworks, acquired Frutta Bowls and bankrupt Garbanzo Mediterranean. The brand announced the purchase of The Simple Greek in March 2021. Each of the brands under WOWorks focuses on "plant-forward, nutritious and flavorful food," that appeals to millennial and Gen Z consumers, the company said. 

    WOWorks opened 60 new restaurants in 2021, including 42 Saladworks, 10 Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh and eight Frutta Bowls locations. Among those stores, nearly 48 percent were nontraditional openings. It also signed 28 franchise agreements calling for 112 new restaurants. 

    With the addition of Barberitos and Zoup!, WOWorks will continue to leverage shared services and best practices from all brands to increase negotiating and purchase power, use cost efficiencies to fuel growth, and improve vendor support as the portfolio expands. 

    "We are incredibly proud of our entire WOWorks family and extremely excited to welcome Barberitos Southwestern Grille and Cantina and Zoup! Eatery to our portfolio of brands. Together, we look forward to fueling the 'Originality' of our team members, guests, business partners and communities and giving everyone the opportunity to live their best life,"  Roddy said. 

    Thus far in 2022, the quick-service M&A market has cooled compared to last year's frenzied activity, including Restaurant Brand International's $1 billion purchase of Firehouse Subs, Jack in the Box's $575 million acquisition of Del Taco, and FAT Brand's combined $900 million buy of multiple restaurant chains.

    The full-service industry, however, has been much more active. Dave & Buster's is set to acquire Main Event for $835 million, Denny's agreed to acquire Keke's Breakfast Cafe for $82.5 million, and Famous Dave's bought Barrio Queen for $28 million.