Franchise Equity Partners Takes Stake in Fresh Dining Concepts
Restaurant Finance Monitor, May 2022
Earlier this month, Franchise Equity Partners (FEP) took a minority interest in Fresh Dining Concepts, a150-plus-unit Focus Brands franchisee, by providing $44 million in equity funding. FEP seeks to provide minority, passive, permanent investments in franchise companies.
This is FEP’s second investment since launching late last year. “We were very interested in them since day one, when we met Kevin at the Restaurant Finance & Development
Conference last November”, said FEP Managing Director Robert Daniel. He’s talking about Kevin Bush, chief strategy officer with Fresh Dining and owner of Green Shoot Partners, which made a majority investment in the restaurant company in 2019.
At the time, Daniel and his FEP team had a meeting lined up with Barry Dubin, co-owner of KBP Brands, a large franchisee of Arby’s, KFC and Taco Bell, who also sits on the board of Fresh Dining. “Barry said, ‘You have to meet Kevin.’ We just met him (Kevin) on the fly,” recalled Daniel.
FEP liked the brands and the management team. “They’ve seen incredible growth and are a buyer of choice in the Auntie Anne’s system,” he explained. “We spent substantial time studying the company and brand and determined the investment met FEP’s thesis on all levels.”
Fresh Dining is the largest operator in the Focus Brands system and operates all of their snack concepts which includes Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Jamba and Carvel.
How did Bush come into contact with someone like mega-operator Dubin in the first place?
Being a student of the business. It all started when Bush worked for Fidelity Investments a
few years ago, spending eight years as an analyst working to invest in large companies. He came to a personal crossroads, asking himself if he wanted to continue
that career. “Or should I satisfy my entrepreneurial bug?” he recalled.
“While I loved my former job, the one part that I couldn’t accomplish with the companies I worked with is I couldn’t help build them. We were passive investors. That was the one attribute missing—I wanted to help build a company.”
He had friends in real estate and started talking to people involved with REITs. “A huge part of their portfolios were restaurants,” said Bush. He began interviewing the operators themselves to help him understand the real estate: Enter Dubin, who was one of the operators who made the business so fascinating to Bush.
“It jump-started my interest in a big way,” he said. “Eventually I found that was the track I wanted to go down.” He began to talk to family, friends and supporters of his at work, and found his investors for Green Shoot Partners. It was a three-year process before they made their first investment, which was Fresh Dining.
And to that point, if you ask Bush how large he will grow Fresh Dining Concepts, he answers that he doesn’t focus on that. “We have the ability to be big, but we’re not going to be big for size-sake. I’m building for an organization that will continue to scale and allocate resources effectively. We’re building this on a decades scale. We want all of our partners—team members, employees, everyone—aligned on that front.”