postino Upward Projects

Postino WineCafe parent wins private-equity investment

Brentwood Associates takes significant stake in multiconcept group Upward Projects

The multiconcept group behind the Postino WineCafe concept has won a significant investment from private-equity firm Brentwood Associates, the company said Thursday.

Phoenix-based Upward Projects is the operator of five brands and 12 restaurants in Arizona and Colorado, including Postino, Joyride Taco House, Federal Pizza, Windsor and Churn.

Lauren Bailey
Photo: Upward Projects

Los Angeles-based Brentwood has a broad restaurant investment portfolio that includes Blaze Pizza, Lazy Dog Restaurants, Pacific Catch and Veggie Grill. 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Brentwood partners Rahul Aggarwal, Steve Moore and affiliate Greg Dollarhyde will join Upward Projects’ board of directors. 

Dollarhyde has served as chair or CEO of eight companies, including Zoe’s Kitchen, Veggie Grill and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill. Separately, Dollarhyde is also an investor in the quick-service Starbird chicken chain.

Craig DeMarco
Photo: Upward Projects

Founded by Lauren Bailey and Craig DeMarco, Upward launched in 2001 with Postino, which was designed to be an accessible and welcoming wine bar. 

The wine-and-craft-beer-friendly menu includes shareable dishes largely under $15. The concept now has seven locations in Phoenix and Denver, and the investment will support further growth of that brand. 

The first Texas location for Postino is scheduled to open in Houston in April 2018, with additional locations planned for Arizona, Colorado and elsewhere across the U.S.

Following the transaction, Bailey will remain as CEO and DeMarco will serve as a director and strategic adviser. The founders and current management team retain a substantial ownership stake in the company, they said. 

“Upward Projects and Brentwood are a perfect match,” said DeMarco in a statement. “They share the same cultural fabric — a focus on people-first and an insatiable appetite for innovation and doing things differently.”

Aggarwal of Brentwood said the Postino brand is one of the most unique the firm has encountered. 

“Postino lives in the grey space of quality, authenticity and approachability that’s highly inclusive and really attractive to a broad spectrum of consumers,” he said in a statement. 

Upward Projects was advised by Piper Jaffray & Co. and its legal counsel was Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. Brentwood was represented by Burr & Forman LLP.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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