FAT Brands Inc. is growing again. The company announced Wednesday morning it successfully completed another acquisition, this time bringing in Elevation Burger for $10 million. Founded in 2002 by Hans Hess, the concept franchises 44 locations.
FAT Brands funded the deal through a combination of sellers’ notes and cash. The purchase expands its portfolio to more than 400 franchises globally with systemwide sales north of $400 million.
“Elevation Burger's slogan 'Ingredients Matter' aligns well with FAT Brands' commitment in providing guests with fresh, authentic, tasty food,” said Andy Wiederhorn, president and CEO of FAT Brands, in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with the brand in this next chapter as they expand domestically and internationally and offer more consumers their organic, free-range, grass-fed offerings.”
Per its website, 20 of Elevation Burger’s locations are in the Middle East. The rest are in Florida, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. D.C., New Jersey, Texas, and Florida are all single-unit markets. The company began franchising in 2008.
Last August, FAT Brands scooped up Yalla Mediterranean, a Los Angeles-based chain founded in 2014.
That July, the company completed a previously announced acquisition of Hurricane Grill & Wings for $12.5 million. Terms of the Yalla deal were not disclosed. The Hurricane acquisition, which added more than 50 units into the company’s footprint, included $8 million in cash and $4.5 million in preferred stock.
Previously, FAT Brands completed the acquisition of Homestyle Dining LLC, the parent company to the Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouse brands, for $10.5 million in November 2017. Wiederhorn said FAT Brands was committed to asset-light growth “through a combination of accretive acquisitions of franchise brands and organic new store growth of existing brands.”
In FAT Brands’ first quarter, which ended March 31, it reported total revenues of $4.9 million, up 35.9 percent from $3.6 million in the year-ago period. Systemwide sales grew 26.4 percent, including a U.S. boost of 39.7 percent. The company swung a loss of $710,000 compared to profit of $509,000 in the comparable year-ago period.
FAT Brands and Steak ‘n Shake owner Sardar Biglari’s Lion Fund L.P. and The Lion Fund II L.P. agreed in January on a deal to borrow $20 million for payment on the company’s debt facility. The term loan matures June 30, 2020.
Q1 broken down, Fatburger’s worldwide same-store sales upped 1.8 percent, year-over (2.9 percent domestic). Buffalo’s Café posted comps gains of 2.9 percent. Hurricane had global same-store sales growth of 4.2 percent and Ponderosa/Bonanza’s comps declined 6.6 percent. Twenty-five of the steakhouse brands’ 98 locations are located in Puerto Rico and were lapping last year’s strong performance following Hurricane Maria. It was a 5.5 percent drop excluding Puerto Rico. “We are encouraging our steakhouse franchisees to commit to an advertising program similar to what we ran for Hurricane and Buffalo's and we believe those direct marketing efforts will right-size the sales and traffic trends for Ponderosa and Bonanza,” Wiederhorn said in a conference call following the quarter.
FAT Brands ended the period with 334 franchised stores and seven corporate units.
Wiederhorn added that Hurricane tracked negative 4.4 percent when FAT Brands took over in the middle of the year. He credited a “very successful advertising campaign,” for the turnaround.
The company implemented delivery in all Fatburger restaurants recently and is in the process of bringing the platform to other concepts. Remodels are underway as well. Wiederhorn said units that have undergone significant refreshes “have experienced material increases in sales that we believe are sustainable.” He added co-branding results in a 20–30 percent jump in average-unit volumes compared to standalone stores. And they present minimum cost to franchisees.
FAT Brands announced several new development deals in the first quarter, including a 10 co-branded agreement for Fatburger Buffalo’s Express locations in the U.S.; a 60-unit development deal with a new partner to open restaurants throughout India over the next decade; and a six-store agreement in Shanghai with an existing master franchise. Dallas-Forth Worth is expected to add three co-branded Fatburger Buffalo’s Express stores as well, in addition to an announced 10-unit plan in Canada.
Just this week, the company announced the opening of a co-branded location in Trout Run, Pennsylvania. The Fatburger and Buffalo's Express opened June 16, signaling the chain’s return to the East Coast.