Ruby Tuesday, &pizza Vets Lead New Acquisition Company

    Team wants to merge with a quick-service brand that has strong off-premises channels and brand recognition. 

    Finance | August 2020 | Ben Coley

    &pizza

    One of FAST Acquisition Corp.'s leaders is Doug Jacob, who helped launch &pizza.

    A group of industry veterans have formed a blank check company with the intention of raising as much as $200 million to acquire a business in the restaurant or hospitality sector.

    The company, known as FAST Acquisition Corp., is led by Co-CEOs Sandy Beall, the founder of Ruby Tuesday, and Doug Jacob, who helped launch &pizza. The chairman is Kevin Reddy, once CEO of Noodles & Company and COO of Chipotle.

    “Our business strategy is to identify and complete our initial business combination with a company that complements the experiences and skills of our leadership team and can benefit from their operational expertise,” the company said in its SEC filing. “ … We believe that restaurant brands that lean heavily into technology-infused creative and brand marketing catapult from category leader to generational icons. Share of wallet, more than ever, is interwoven with share of mind and heart, and it is those brands championing this understanding that are disrupting, leading, and ultimately winning their categories.”

    FAST is looking to acquire a business with criteria such as: quick-service restaurant or small-footprint fast casual with drive-thru, strong off-premises, and technology capabilities; regional or national presence and potential for international expansion; and financial profile of $40 million to $150 million consolidated EBITDA and a $600 million or greater enterprise value. However, the list is by no means exhaustive.

    “We believe that now is the best time to apply a lifetime of learning to this opportunity,” the company said.

    In the filing, FAST said it understands the challenges restaurants face with the COVID pandemic, but the acquisition company added that it has the requisite experience to “understand the nuances of how to create value and regain customer trust.” Some examples include driving multiple dayparts, offering clean, craveable menus, creating a flexible retail footprint, implementing best-in-class off-premises and loyalty programs, developing experiential destinations, strengthening digital and technology, and building a culturally relevant brand.

    FAST explained that COVID presents a unique opportunity, especially with quick-service concepts experiencing same-store sales gains thanks to strong off-premises channels. The group of restaurateurs said this type of performance amid a treacherous environment can be used to evaluate which brands are set to grow in the future. FAST also noted the upcoming real estate opportunity due to numerous restaurants permanently closing during the pandemic.

    “Collectively, we believe we have the experience to create the next industry leader and have the deep connections and expertise to execute on this vision post-business combination,” FAST said. “We anticipate that for businesses that fit our criteria, we will be an attractive exit opportunity.”

    Other notable members of FAST include:

    • Chief Strategy Officer Kimberly Grant, who served as CEO of ThinkFoodGroup, which owns and operates dining concepts created by Chef José Andrés.
    • Alice Elliot, founder and CEO of The Elliot Group, a widely recognized executive recruitment agency in the restaurant sector. 
    • Michael Lastoria, co-founder and CEO of &pizza.
    • Kat Cole, COO of Focus Brands, the parent of Cinnabon, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and Jamba. 
    • NFL All-Pro and Pro Bowl players Todd Gurley and Ndamukong Suh.