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Garbanzo executives take stake in La Boulangerie Photos courtesy of Garbanzo

Garbanzo executives take stake in La Boulangerie

Companies creating new shared-services platform

Executives from fast-casual Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh have made a “significant” equity investment in the San Francisco-based La Boulangerie bakery-café concept, leaders of the two companies said Friday.

James Park, Garbanzo CEO, said he and real-estate investor Michael Staenberg, who holds an 84 percent ownership stake in the Denver-based chain, have partnered with Pascal Rigo, left, the founder and operator of La Boulangerie, to expand, franchise and license the brand. Garbanzo has 28 units, and La Boulangerie has eight.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Nicolas Bernadi will remain as CEO of La Boulangerie, Park said.

Park said the investors, including Bernadi, have created a new company called Modern BOSS, standing for Back Office Shared Services, to administer such business functions as accounting, financing, forecasting, accounts payable and other general and administrative duties.

“One of the challenges of a growing organization is the obstacle of the general and administrative costs,” Park said in an interview Friday. “Modern BOSS will support the business and let the core functions such as operations and marketing to continue without the additional burden of the G&A.”

Modern BOSS, based in Denver, will use business software created at Garbanzo, Park said. The platform can be used as the partners look at other acquisitions, he said.

“We’re looking at a couple of other restaurant concepts and perhaps other businesses in the hospitality space,” Park said.

Majority Garbanzo owner Staenberg also owns the 27-unit St. Louis, Mo.-based Lion’s Choice roast beef sandwich quick-service concept, the 32-unit Minneapolis, Minn.-based casual-dining Granite City Food & Brewery (a Nation’s Restaurant News Hot Concepts honoree in 2007) and The Shack, a seven-unit breakfast-lunch concept.

In the meantime, the new Garbanzo-La Boulangerie partnership has plans to expand the bakery concept.

“There are two being built right now,” Park, left, said, “and we will continue to build somewhere from three to five in the Bay Area within the next 15 months.” Park said La Boulangerie is actively pursuing real estate in Denver and St. Louis. Garbanzo has units in six states.

Starbucks Corp. acquired Rigo’s La Boulange bakery, founded in 1995, for $100 million in 2012, but the coffee giant shut down the brand in 2015 and sold five of 23 units back to Rigo and Bernadi. They reopened the stores as La Boulangerie and added three more.

“It is exactly what we are looking for in a great partner,” Rigo said of the new partnership. “They have skills we don’t have. They are a great operation, and they can bring a great deal in the area of real estate. … If you have a great concept and don’t know where to put it, you have nothing.”

Rigo says he foresees the La Boulangerie concept fitting in a variety of locations. “We’re not going to stick to one format or square footage,” he said. “We will be able to bring something good to our customers anywhere.”

Park said Garbanzo is also expanding. New units are set to open soon at the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Ind., Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., and at Denver International Airport.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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