Red Robin Leader, Ex-Barteca CEO Create Special Acquisition Company

    The company is seeking a brand with an enterprise value of $400 million to $1 billion.

    Finance | October 2020 | Ben Coley
    Jamba bowl of food.
    Jamba
    Tastemaker is spearheaded by co-CEOs Andrew Pforzheimer and David Pace, the latter of which was once president and CEO of Jamba (above).

    The co-founder of Barcelona Wine Bar and Bartaco and the chairman of Red Robin are behind a new special acquisition company targeting the restaurant, hospitality, and related technology and service sectors.

    The company, called Tastemaker Acquisition, intends to raise $200 million. Tastemaker is spearheaded by co-CEOs Andrew Pforzheimer and David Pace. It will be listed on the Nasdaq as TMKR.

    Pforzheimer has more than 40 years of experience with growth brands. He co-founded Barcelona and Bartaco and served as CEO for 22 years before selling them to Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group for $325 million in 2018. He currently works as an operating adviser for restaurant growth brands and on the board of US Foods Holding, the second-largest foodservice distributor in the world.

    Pace brings more than 30 years of public company management experience in the upscale, casual, fast-casual, and quick-service space. He’s served as chairman of Red Robin since November 2019. Before, he worked as president and CEO of Jamba for two and a half years. While at Jamba, he oversaw a refranchising strategy and return to profitability, which resulted in a sale to Focus Brands. Pace was also president of Carrabba’s Italian Grill from 2014 to 2016.

    According to the filing, Pace and Pforzheimer have compiled a leadership group that is part of companies and investment firms that have completed more than 100 merger and acquisition, capital markets, and private investing transactions since 2010.

    Tastemaker is seeking a company with an approximate enterprise value of $400 million to $1 billion. Other criteria include strong unit economics, market share, and growth prospects.

    The blank check company wants to capitalize on a shift in dynamics in which legacy chains have lost market share to new restaurateurs who’ve embraced technology and convenience. Their interest is not only piqued by brands built with a strong off-premises model, but also those that have taken advantage of other consumer trends such as plant-based diets, casual bar-based dining, and experiential atmospheres.

    “We believe that certain brands that navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic will be in a stronger competitive position in the future,” the filing said. “We expect that, due to near-term external forces in the industry, real estate prices (the largest fixed cost in restaurants) will decrease, the labor market will loosen, and competition will be diminished. Given these dynamics, we believe now is the ideal time to seek out an acquisition, and our team is uniquely qualified to execute upon this opportunity.”

    Tastemaker is the latest in a string of newly formed special acquisition companies looking for a ripe investment.

    During the summer, Fast Acquisition Corp. was formed by Co-CEOs Sandy Beall, the founder of Ruby Tuesday, and Doug Jacob, who helped launch &pizza. The company said it’s looking for a quick-service restaurant or small-footprint fast casual with drive-thru, strong off-premises, and technology capabilities and a $600 million or more enterprise value. Starboard Value Acquisition Company, which includes former Dunkin’ and Papa John’s CEO Nigel Travis, was also created this summer. It’s looking to raise $300 million for a brand with market share and growth opportunities.