Noodles & Company on Thursday became the first in the restaurant space to publicly file for an initial public offering this year.

With an IPO that was long expected, the Broomfield, Colo.-based fast-casual chain is seeking to raise up to $75 million with the goal of repaying debt and growing nationally. With 339 restaurants in 25 states, Noodles & Company is owned by private-equity firm Catterton Partners, along with Argentia Private Investments, a subsidiary of a Canadian public sector pension investment board.

The company did not report how many shares it intends to sell, or at what price.

John Gordon, principal of Pacific Management Consulting Group based in San Diego, said Noodles & Company is the first fast-casual concept to test the IPO waters in some time. There were eight restaurant industry IPOs in 2012, but none were fast-casual chains.


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He described Noodles & Company's $75 million target as modest. “I would look for that to get up easily to $100 million,” he said, noting that there are advantages to being the first of the year. “There is definitely pent-up demand for restaurants.”

Given the growth seen in the fast-casual space, it will be interesting to see whether the brand will get a strong reaction, he added.

Other fast-casual chains have been talking about potential IPOs to come. Denver-based Smashburger’s chair and chief executive Dave Prokupek earlier this week told Bloomberg the company may consider an IPO in the next few years, but not until after the 200-unit chain more than doubles in size.

Noodles & Company was founded in 1995 as a concept offering pasta dishes from around the world — from pad thai to macaroni and cheese — with an average check of about $7.40.

The 339-unit chain includes 288 company locations and 51 that are franchised.

The company's revenue has grown from $170 million in 2008 to $300 million in 2012. Income from operations during that time grew from $2 million to $16 million, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Noodles & Company said in the filing that its same-store sales have grown in 28 to 29 of the last quarters, primarily from increased guest traffic. Same-store sales over the past three years grew 3.7 percent in 2010, 4.8 percent in 2011, and 5.4 percent in 2012.

Restaurant margins among company-owned locations were 22.3 percent among the comparable store base, which the company said was at the top tier of the industry, citing data from market research firm Technomic.

If growth continues at the current rate, the company said, Noodles & Company could eventually reach 2,500 units in the U.S. within 15 to 20 years.

The company expects to list its stock on the NASDAQ, or the New York Stock Exchange, under the symbol “NDLS.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

Correction: May 23, 2013  A previous version of this article misstated that Noodles & Company is the first restaurant company to file for an IPO this year and also misstated the company name as Noodles & Co. Information about company shares and price was also added.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout