The family behind the Coors brewery has created a new restaurant venture that has acquired the better-for-you Mad Greens chain with plans to expand outside Colorado.

AC Restaurant Group is the new entity created by the Coors family in a move to diversify its holdings. Darden Coors, an attorney and fifth-generation member of the prominent Colorado family who is spearheading the deal, said members of her generation have a passion for restaurants, and they see an opportunity to drive growth, particularly in the fast-casual segment.

Terms for the acquisition were not disclosed, but Marley Hodgson, co-founder of Denver-based Mad Greens with Dan Long, said AC Restaurant Group has taken a majority stake in the concept. Members of the executive team remain minority shareholders and will continue to operate the 11-unit chain with Coors at the helm as chief executive.

AC Restaurant Group selected Mad Greens as its first restaurant investment because they were impressed by the concept’s food and attention to quality, Coors said.

“The better-for-you category was very attractive and that’s where consumer tastes are going,” she said. “We were very impressed by Marley and Dan and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

For Mad Greens, which was founded in 2004, the investment will enable the chain to “make that bigger leap” in growth, both within Colorado and to other states, said Hodgson, the chain’s chief strategic officer.



Known for its healthful made-to-order salads, paninis and wraps made with premium ingredients, with an emphasis on local sourcing, Mad Greens has a per-person check of about $8.50. Though the company declined to disclose sales, Hodgson said the chain has just wrapped up two years of double-digit same-store sales growth.

Hodgson said they hope to reach 50 units within the next four to five years as they expand to other regions — though they’re not ready to say yet where they plan to go next. That move will likely come in 2015.

Meanwhile, the chain will ramp up growth in Colorado and plans to open three or four units there in 2014.

Long, Mad Greens’ chief culinary officer, said the investment will also allow the chain to build on relationships with local vendors and suppliers.

“I think it’ll give us a lot more purchasing power,” he said.

The chain, for example, is working with a Golden-based urban farming company called Agriburbia, which raises organic produce on underutilized suburban and urban plots of land

Hodgson said he and Long have been meeting with potential investor partners for months to find the right match. Unlike potential private-equity buyers that had specific expectations for return on investment, AC Restaurant Group offered more flexibility and a long-term view.

“We had a very specific idea about what we wanted to do,” said Hodgson. “What interested Dan and I was the longer-term view they had on growth, the ability to do smart growth, but to ratchet up on a larger scale without having a specific timeline.”

Added to that was the Coors family’s deep roots in Colorado, Hodgson said. Though the family may be new to the restaurant business, the brands they have supported in the past tend to be very consumer focused, he said.

“We think it’s a lot better to have a great local partners who cares a lot about Colorado than a private-equity firm who may not care that much about the company and only cares about results,” said Hodgson.

The Coors family is best known for the Denver-based brewery of the same name, founded by Adolph Coors in 1873. In 2007, what had become Molson Coors merged with SABMiller and is now operated as a joint venture as MillerCoors.

Darden Coors was previously counsel for the family-owned CoorsTek Inc., a ceramics manufacturer based in Golden, Colo. She also served as counsel for the bagel chain operator and franchisor Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. based in Lakewood, Colo.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
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