Cafe Rio, a high-growth, fast-casual Mexican restaurant company, announced that it has been acquired by Freeman Spogli & Co. Cafe Rio’s existing management team will continue to lead the company and will retain a meaningful equity stake in the business. The company was purchased from KarpReilly, who invested in the business in 2004.  The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Cafe Rio specializes in serving the highest quality, made-from-scratch meals, using only the freshest ingredients. Its authentic dishes are inspired by recipes and traditional cooking found in Northern Mexico’s Rio Grande region, Southern Texas and New Mexico. The company offers its customers a wide variety of menu items, including burritos, tortillas, salads and tacos that are customized by using various proteins and sauces. Cafe Rio operates over 100 restaurants in eleven states, primarily across the western United States.

“Cafe Rio is a differentiated restaurant concept with a focus on serving craveable food that is 100 percent made-from-scratch,” says Christian Johnson, a partner at Freeman Spogli. “The company’s unwavering commitment to food quality and customer service have engendered an extremely loyal customer following, which has led to strong financial results and an impressive track record of consistent growth.  We are excited to partner with Dave Gagnon, Steve Vaughan and the management team at Cafe Rio as the company enters its next phase of growth.”

“We are very pleased to be working with Freeman Spogli as we embark on this next chapter for the company,” says Dave Gagnon, chief executive officer of Cafe Rio. “We are incredibly proud of the culture we have built during our partnership with KarpReilly, and believe it provides us with a strong foundation for future growth.  Through our new partnership with Freeman Spogli, we will be able to leverage their team’s extensive experience growing restaurant concepts as we look to expand Cafe Rio in both existing and new markets.”

“We are proud of the significant growth Cafe Rio has undergone during our ownership,” says Allan Karp, Co-Founder of KarpReilly. “During our time together, the company has grown from 6 restaurants in Utah to over 100 restaurants in 11 states today. We have enjoyed working with the Cafe Rio management team and look forward to watching the business continue to grow under Freeman Spogli’s stewardship.”

Piper Jaffray acted as exclusive financial advisors to Cafe Rio and KarpReilly. Ropes & Gray LLP and Kirton McConkie PC acted as legal advisors to the company and KarpReilly.  Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP acted as legal advisor to Freeman Spogli.

Founded in 1997 and headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, Cafe Rio is a high-growth, fast-casual Mexican restaurant company focused on serving exceptional, made-from-scratch food.  The company operates over 100 company-owned restaurants across Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.


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