SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–High Bluff Capital Partners (“High Bluff”), supported by various alternative investment funds managed by FS Investments, announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Church’s Chicken®, one of the world’s largest quick service chicken restaurant chains, from FFL Partners. Subject to customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to be completed during Q3 of 2021.
Based in Atlanta and founded in 1952, Church’s® has more than 1,500 locations in 26 countries and international territories. Demonstrating considerable resiliency in the face of a devastating global pandemic, the brand in 2020 leveraged its strengths in family meals, digital offerings, delivery and to-go orders to post a strong year of performance, generating system-wide sales of nearly $1.2 billion. Over the next year, the brand expects to expand its already sizable domestic and international presence with the opening of more than 100 new locations, including the roll-out of its highly successful Blaze Image restaurant concept.
Specializing in equity investments in restaurants and iconic consumer-facing brands, High Bluff established its restaurant platform, REGO Restaurant Group, in 2018 with the acquisitions of toasted sub pioneer Quiznos and Taco Del Mar, a fast-casual restaurant chain offering coastal Mexican cuisine. Since then, the firm has had a transformative impact on both brands – driving significant menu innovation, modernizing marketing and branding, enhancing the guest experience, and delivering best-in-class opportunities to franchisees.
“At a time when the entire restaurant industry has faced unprecedented challenges, Church’s has stood out as a notable bright spot, having emerged from the pandemic with considerable tailwinds that strongly position the brand for tremendous growth geographically as well as in the overall chicken category,” said Anand Gowda, who, prior to founding High Bluff Capital Partners served as President and Managing Partner of Metropoulos & Co.
“Our investment strategy continues to center on identifying brands with long-term connections with consumers that can be energized and propelled to greater success through targeted industry expertise, operational efficiencies, innovation and creative brand management,” Gowda added. “Church’s fits squarely within this wheelhouse. We look forward to leveraging our robust platform and working closely with the management team and franchisees to accelerate Church’s positive trajectory.”
“In addition to becoming a premier global franchisor, Church’s has long dominated the value-oriented market in the chicken category, with a highly recognizable brand, consistent quality and delicious offerings,” said Rushabh Vora, Managing Director at FS Investments, which led a structured capital investment in support of the acquisition out of its FS Tactical Opportunities Fund along with other affiliated investment funds. “With the global chicken QSR market forecasted to grow meaningfully over the next few years, and major geographies such as China and Australia still yet to be tapped by Church’s, we see exciting growth potential for this beloved brand.”
“The past few years have been all about growth for the brand and its franchisees,” shared Joe Christina, Chief Executive Officer for Church’s. “Our focus will be to deliver against our strategic plan with new locations in the U.S. and internationally and continued profitable sales growth.”
“I am proud to continue leading the brand with High Bluff and the solid backing of FS Investments, which will give us the added momentum to truly realize our Vision to be the Global Franchisor of Choice,” Christina said. “I thank our teams and franchisees around the world for their ability to deliver and establish a framework to expand what we’re capable of accomplishing as a team.”
About Church’s Chicken®
Founded in San Antonio, Texas, in 1952 by George W. Church, Church’s Chicken® is one of the world’s largest quick-service restaurant chicken chains. Church’s® specializes in Original and Spicy Chicken freshly prepared throughout the day in small batches that are hand-battered and double-breaded, Tender Strips®, Honey-Butter Biscuits™ made from scratch and freshly baked, and classic, homestyle sides all for a great value. Church’s® (along with its sister brand Texas Chicken® outside the Americas) has more than 1,500 locations in 26 countries and international territories, and experienced system-wide sales of nearly $1.2 billion in 2020. During two national media windows, the brand drove sales performance that outpaced the broader QSR category. Church’s international presence also continues to impress as it achieved record-breaking growth for the second consecutive year in 2020 – despite a global pandemic. For more information, visit www.churchs.com. Follow Church’s® on Facebook at www.facebook.com/churchschicken and Twitter at www.twitter.com/churchschicken.
About High Bluff Capital Partners
Based in San Diego, California, High Bluff Capital Partners is a private investment firm that specializes in making control-oriented equity investments in iconic consumer-facing companies. The firm’s team has more than 30 years of experience managing, investing, leading and transforming consumer businesses across the restaurant, entertainment, food, beverage and retail markets.
More information can be found at www.highbluffcap.com.
About FS Investments
FS Investments is a leading asset manager dedicated to helping individuals, financial professionals and institutions design better portfolios. The firm provides access to alternative sources of income and growth, and focuses on setting industry standards for investor protection, education and transparency. FS Investments is headquartered in Philadelphia, PA with offices in New York, NY, Orlando, FL and Leawood, KS. Visit www.fsinvestments.com to learn more.
Moelis & Company LLC served as the M&A advisor to High Bluff and FS Investments, and exclusive placement agent to High Bluff; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Dentons US LLP served as legal advisors to High Bluff and REGO Restaurant Group; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP served as legal advisor to FS Investments.
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