Smashburger said Monday it has closed on a $35 million round of financing with Golub Capital to fund ongoing growth, dashing hopes that the fast-casual burger chain would go public this year.
However, Dave Prokupek, Smashburger’s chair and chief executive, said an initial public offering may still be on the horizon for the Denver-based chain, which is owned by private-equity firm Consumer Capital Partners.
Charles Riceman, managing director at New York-based Golub Capital, said he believes Smashburger is positioned to become the industry leader in the better-burger category and in the fast-casual sector overall.
“We were impressed with Smashburger’s industry-leading franchisees, as well as the company’s execution on its business goals to date, and we look forward to being a part of the company’s success going forward,” he said in a statement.
Prokupek spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News on Monday about the deal and growth plans ahead.
Why take this financing step now?
We’ve been all-equity financed to date. We’ve put just under about $50 million in since we started in 2007, and we decided to take advantage of getting some debt capital into the business.
$35 million is a modest facility, basically to give us some additional capital to continue on, especially with our corporate growth strategy. We’re about 50/50 corporate-to-franchise now. So we will open 20 to 25 corporate restaurants this year and another 40 or so franchise restaurants. We’re upping that next year and will probably target 30-plus corporate restaurants in 2014, making sure we’ve got the flexibility to keep growing.
Are you targeting specific markets for corporate growth?
Our development strategy for corporate growth is in the top 10 DMAs, plus some of our existing markets, like Denver. So we’re expanding in Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and Denver, as well as up in Canada, in Calgary and Edmonton. For the most part some of the larger markets in U.S. are where we’re expanding corporately.
You’ve been quoted as saying fast-casual chains will be more likely to go public once they hit 300-400 units. Is that a goal for Smashburger?
Being public is still certainly an option for Smashburger down the road. I never really put any size on it. But you’ve got Noodles and Company [which is expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Friday] at between 300 and 400 units. There’s a certain size in the business that makes sense.
Being public is still on the radar. We’re giving ourselves enough capital to finance ourselves in multiple ways; this is one of those ways. But we’re not planning on going public this year.
What’s Smashburger’s unit count now?
We have over 210 units, and we’ll finish 2013 at around 250 units. So we’ll see about 30-percent unit growth this year and similar numbers probably in 2014. We’ve been growing at a pace of about 30-35 percent or so.