Mendocino Farms strikes investment deal with Catterton Partners

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The deal will aid the gourmet sandwich chain's growth

Mendocino Farms on Tuesday announced a capital investment from private equity firm Catterton Partners that will aid the gourmet sandwich chain’s growth.

Mario Del Pero, Mendocino Farms’ founder and chief executive, declined to characterize the investment or terms of the deal but said the agreement will offer additional financing, as well as support for the seven-year-old concept’s efforts to continue its expansion.

This is the second significant investment for five-unit Mendocino Farms. In 2010, Cosi Restaurants founder Nick Marsh, through New York-based GrowthPoint Restaurants, committed $1.2 million to grow the concept.

Del Pero said Marsh remains involved and sits on Mendocino Farms’ board. With the Catterton deal, however, a new board member will join: Industry veteran Bill Allen, former chair and chief executive of OSI Restaurant Partners LLC — now known as Bloomin’ Brands Inc. — which is parent to Outback Steakhouse and other brands.

Los Angeles-based Mendocino Farms was founded in 2005 by Del Pero and his wife and business partner Ellen Chen. With a menu developed by former fine-dining chef Judy Han, the concept has developed a cult-like following for its high-quality sandwiches, such as a signature Kurabata pork belly banh mi or the “Not So Fried” chicken with house pickle mustard slaw.

The chain recently opened its fifth location in Los Angeles near the city’s historic Farmer’s Market shopping center, and a sixth is under construction downtown.

Del Pero said two to three new units are scheduled to open in both 2013 and 2014, which will likely include a move into neighboring Orange County, he said.

“One of the many deal points with Catterton was that they wanted to maintain our growth plan: slow and steady,” Del Pero said.

Catterton’s experience with other restaurant brands also was a selling point for Mendocino Farms, Del Pero added.

Restaurant chains in Catterton’s portfolio currently or in the past include Cheddar’s, First Watch, Outback Steakhouse, Noodles & Co., and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc.

“Mendocino Farms is redefining the sandwich category through its creative culinary approach to developing gourmet sandwiches using only the finest ingredients in a setting that has a modern yet rustic aesthetic, and with a service model and execution that is best in class," said Jon Owsley, a partner at Catterton, in a statement. "We look forward to growing the Mendocino Farms brand and helping to expand the concept’s geographic footprint beyond its current Los Angeles locations.”

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