When Uncle Maddio’s received its second equity investment in December, it was from a very familiar source.
In June S&S Group took a minority stake in the pizza brand, and earlier this month Rutherford Seydel became the second investor. Seydel, a partner at a corporate law firm and co-owner of NBA team the Atlanta Hawks, had worked with Uncle Maddio’s founder Matt Andrew years earlier when Andrew cofounded Moe’s Southwest Grill.
“I like going places that I’ve had successes. As you get older and hopefully a little wiser, you keep going back to the same place and to the same people that have the passion, the energy, the reputation,” Seydel says. “It was important to me as Matt went off on his own and got his own program going to show him the respect and invest with him because he was part of the success that I’d already had at Moe’s.
But his reasons for buying into the fast-casual pizza concept go deeper than his history with Andrew. For one, he says that Uncle Maddio’s menu variety and quality ingredients cancel the “veto vote.” Seydel’s daughters are gluten-free and his wife, Laura Turner Seydel—daughter of renowned businessman Ted Turner—likes to eat organic produce. Both of these dietary restrictions and preferences can be accommodated at Uncle Maddio’s.
Seydel also thinks that as the brand continues to expand, its staying power also increases. He concedes that the fast-casual pizza field is crowded, but at 38 units, Uncle Maddio’s is rapidly approaching the 50-unit mark, which Seydel considers the “magic number.” He says that once a brand opens 100 units, the chances of them sliding backwards are greatly reduced.
Beyond an infusion of capital, Uncle Maddio’s will also benefit from Seydel’s expertise as he joins the board of advisors.
“I have a practice that operates across the country, knows markets like Denver and a lot of markets up in the Northeast really well,” Seydel says. “I thought that I could be strategically helpful at a two-way street, and I thought that my money and my rolodex and some of the things that I bring to the table could be a good combination along with the other strategic investor [S&S Investments].”
Despite having business friends and associates around the world, Seydel is passionate about investing in homegrown concepts. As a seventh-generation Atlantan, he not only takes pride in supporting locally based companies but also sees it as a shrewd business move.
“Atlanta, Georgia, is responsible for creating the dress, brands, and innovation around how a lot of Americans and a lot of the world gets fed,” Seydel says. “We still operate a lot like a small town in a lot of ways in Atlanta. It’s easy for me to go call on or talk to just about anybody.”
Atlanta is home to power players like Chick-fil-A and Arby’s, as well as Roark Capital Group, which fuels other big names like Wendy’s, Focus Brands, and now Moe’s. Seydel also credits Coca-Cola—founded in Atlanta nearly 130 years ago—as facilitating those early synergies between various foodservice professionals and brands.
As for the fast-casual movement writ large, Seydel is confident that it is the wave of the future.
“I do think there is this mix of one day you’re fast and another day you want to slow down after a baseball game with your son and sit down and be more casual, but you’re still in your baseball cleats,” Seydel says. “I do think the fast casual market is one that’s got a lot more growth in it because that’s how people live now.”
By Nicole Duncan