Millstone Capital Advisors, a St. Louis-based private equity management company, recently announced its purchase of the Native Foods Café restaurant chain. Native Foods Café’s management team, led by president and restaurant-industry veteran Scott McDonnell, will continue to build the brand following the acquisition.
Founded in 1994 in Palm Springs, California, Native Foods Café has earned the reputation as a premier plant-based, fast-casual restaurant group, with 13 restaurants in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Illinois. The chain’s 100-percent plant-based menu features chef-crafted, made-from-scratch entrees with global flavors, including Pad Thai, Bulgogi Kimchi Tacos, Native Double Cheeseburger, and Chicken & Waffles.
Native Foods Café’s compassionate dining focus extends beyond the menu and includes an emphasis on environmentally friendly business practices. Its unique menu and approach has earned Native Foods Café a crossover appeal that covers a broad segment of the population, with a majority of customers (75 percent) identifying themselves as nonvegan and nonvegetarian.
Millstone Capital Advisors’ investment and support will provide Native Foods Café with the resources it needs to expand, while staying true to its core values and quality, plant-based offerings. Robert Millstone, managing director of Millstone Capital Advisors, cited Native Foods Café’s loyal employees and customer base, as well as their quality product offering in a growing segment in the restaurant industry, as key factors in the decision to acquire the chain.
“To be aligned with a brand with the core values and healthy, sustainable dining options that Native Foods Café has is an honor,” says Millstone. “The plant-based dining segment has experienced solid year-over-year growth and Native Foods Café has been at the forefront of this segment for well over 20 years. We feel they are well positioned for even greater success and we intend to help them achieve this through organic, fiscally responsible and sustainable growth.”
According to a June 2017 GlobalData study, Global Trends: Top Trends in Prepared Foods 2017, the number of people in the U.S. who identified themselves as vegans increased 600 percent – from 1 to 6 percent of the population – between 2014 and 2017. In a separate trend report, respected restaurant consultancy Baum & Whitman named plant-based dining its 2018 trend of the year, indicating that the trend is being led by meat-eaters who are reducing their meat intake in favor of vegetables, grains, fruits, and plant-based proteins.
This upward trend has not gone unnoticed in the restaurant industry, including in the fast-casual segment. QSR reported that increasing “craveability” of plant-based food options, combined with the health and sustainability benefits, “could have an enormous impact on the limited-service industry.” Native Foods Café has been on the forefront of this trend for nearly a quarter century.
“In 1994 our company first set out to bring compassionate dining to the fast-casual segment,” says McDonnell. “We are eager to share our passion for great food and creative, innovative and diverse menu offerings with more customers in both new and existing markets, and we’re confident Millstone Capital Advisors is the right partner to help us realize this goal.”
The acquisition of Native Foods Café is Millstone Capital Advisors’ second investment in the quick-service and fast-casual dining segments. In 2013, the company purchased the iconic St. Louis-based Lion’s Choice family of restaurants. Under Millstone’s ownership, the company has grown to 26 locations throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. Both brands offer high quality, great tasting food with friendly service to the customers they serve.