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Parent of Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina relocates to Orlando

FoodFirst, led by CEO Brad Blum, also is renaming the two brands

FoodFirst Global Restaurants Inc. is relocating its global headquarters to Florida and renaming its two core brands Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana.

Brio is now Brio Italian Mediterranean and Bravo is Bravo Fresh Italian. CEO Brad Blum, an investor in FoodFirst, said the renaming reflects how strongly the company feels about the healthful ingredients used in Italian Mediterranean cooking. 

“It has phenomenal taste. We just think that is more meaningful to consumers,” Blum said in a Wednesday afternoon phone interview with Nation’s Restaurant News.

Blum (left), who grew up in Ohio but maintains a home in Florida, said FoodFirst will keep some support functions in the Columbus, Ohio offices. Roughly 25 employees in accounting, payroll, finance and information technology are expected to stay. Regional training will also remain in Ohio, where 17 percent of the company’s 110 Bravo and Brio restaurants operate.

But starting next week, a bulk of the corporate staff including the executive team will relocate to the 9th floor of a bank building in downtown Orlando, across the street from City Hall and near the Amway Center sports arena.

Nearby but not in the same office tower, FoodFirst plans to build a state-of-the art training center for menu innovation.

The relocation comes less than six months after Bravo Brio Restaurant Group went private and changed its name to FoodFirst Global Restaurants. The company was acquired in a deal valued at about $100 million. Swiss investor Spice Private Equity Ltd., an affiliate of GP Investments Ltd. of Brazil, is the main stakeholder. Blum, who used to live in Switzerland, also has a stake in the company.

Blum, who served as president of Olive Garden from 1994 to 2002, said his newly formed leadership team is tasked with building brands that serve exceptionally good tasting food that makes you feel good and is also good for the environment. Several of his executive appointments have been former Darden employees, including Dave Pickens who was named president and chief operations officer earlier this week.

In late October, some dishes were revamped at Bravo. The upgrades include four new spaghetti dishes created by John Imbriolo, named chief culinary officer in July.

The fifth generation Italian chef has added four spaghetti dishes inspired by family recipes: Spaghetti Pesto, Spaghetti Pomodoro, Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe and Spaghetti Bolognese. The bolognese is made with organic grass-fed ground beef and all-natural pork. A new meatball dish is also made with a blend of organic grass-fed beef and all-natural pork.

“We’re taking the taste of the food up, and calorie counts down,” Blum said. “It’s authentically Italian, but it is fresher, and its lighter, and its more colorful and you feel better after you eat it.”

Blum said menu revamps are coming soon to Brio.

Along with upgrading the Bravo and Brio menus, Blum said FoodFirst is focused on expanding its portfolio through acquisitions, as well building a new concept.

Any new acquisition won’t have to be a casual-dining brand, but Blum said it does have to meet FoodFirst’s “Good Food for the Planet” ethos. 

As for the cuisine? “I don’t think it will be an Italian brand,” he said.

As it grows, Blum said establishing its home base in Orlando is crucial because the city is bustling with international tourism and a major hub for hospitality brands.

Plus, he said: “It’s the epicenter for casual dining.”

 Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @fastfoodmaven

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