Industry News | September 9, 2016 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Jimmy John's One of 3 Brands Sold This Week

Wetzel’s Pretzels
Wetzel’s Pretzels was acquired by private equity group CenterOak Partners. Wetzel’s Pretzels

Roark Capital acquired a majority stake in sandwich concept Jimmy John’s, adding to the firm’s list of investments that includes Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, and Schlotzsky's.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, and there will not be any changes in management, according to a Jimmy John’s statement.

Restaurant founder Jimmy John Liautaud, who will remain the company’s chairman and the single largest individual shareholder, says in the statement that he spent two years “getting to know the Roark team.”

“They are best-in-class people that have the knowledge and expertise that will help us take this brand to the next level,” he adds.

Upon completion of the Jimmy John’s sale, Roark will have acquired 56 multi-unit restaurant brands that generate an estimated $23 billion in annual system revenues. Roark’s past investments have included CKE, Arby’s, and Moe’s Southwest Grill.

Jimmy John’s has 2,500 locations and $2 billion in system-wide sales.

“Jimmy has built an amazing business with unlimited potential,” says Neal Aronson, managing partner of Roark, in a statement. “It's a testament to his vision, commitment to quality, and the team's outstanding execution. We are thrilled to be a part of this iconic brand and look forward to supporting its continued growth."

Jimmy John’s wasn’t the only restaurant brand to be acquired this week, with both pizza buffet concept Cicis and Wetzel’s Pretzels selling to investment firms.

Food and agriculture investment company Arlon Group acquired Cicis, which CEO Darin Harris says will “solidify and enhance” the company’s growth plan.

Cicis plans to add 70 new restaurants through 2017, and reported 13 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth across its more than 440 locations.

“I think with their knowledge and experience all the way from seed to table, it provides a lot of strategic benefit in being a financial partner,” Harris says, adding that Arlon Group’s knowledge of supply chain and distribution aspects will also be beneficial to Cicis and its future growth.

Arlon Group, which also owns quick-service restaurant franchisee K-Mac Holdings, will also benefit Cicis through its shared franchise knowledge, Harris adds.

“The company’s dedicated, high-caliber management team has set the company on a path that is generating consistent, positive results,” Arlon managing principal Ben Fishman adds via a statement.

Cicis will retain its senior management team following the acquisition and Harris will remain CEO.

Wetzel’s Pretzels, which experienced a 6.7 percent same-store sales increase over the past year, was acquired by private equity group CenterOak Partners.

Wetzel’s CEO, Bill Phelps, will remain in his current role, with co-founder Rick Wetzel retaining a seat on the company’s board of directors.

Wetzel’s operates more than 300 company owned and franchised locations in 28 states and six countries, and estimated system-wide sales of $165 million.

“From rolling the first Wetzel’s Pretzel in our kitchens more than 23 years ago, our vision of serving fresh, delicious pretzels in a fun atmosphere has remained the same,” Phelps says in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have found a business partner in CenterOak Partners that believes in that vision, and understands our top priority is the profitability of our franchise partners.”

By Alex Dixon

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