NRD Capital Management LLC has expanded the role of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop CEO Paul Damico to cover its newly created platform company, Experiential Brands, which is targeting acquisitions, the company said Tuesday.
Atlanta-based NRD in August named industry veteran Damico to serve as CEO of the Irving, Texas-based Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, which has 150 units in 17 states, and he will now also head the new platform.
“Experiential Brands will be the holding company and Fuzzy's Taco Shop will be the first brand we put into that new platform,” Damico said in an interview Tuesday.
Damico said the company has not identified specific acquisition targets, but they would likely be in line with Fuzzy’s, a fast-casual taco concept with bar and often a patio.
“We're going to be looking for brands that really provide an experience to the guest,” Damico said.
The proliferation of delivery, online ordering and takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic, Damico said, “really changed the landscape. But I truly believe that there are brands out there where the guest really wants to come into the brick-and-mortar restaurant — not just have a great meal, but they want to have a little bit of experience.”
The target also would be franchised or ripe for that expansion format, he added.
“Paul is an experienced veteran in the restaurant franchise industry and has a proven track record of successfully scaling and growing franchised brands, most notably growing Moe’s Southwest Grill from 200 to 700 units, making him the ideal fit for this role,” said Aziz Hashim, founder and managing partner of NRD Capital, in a statement.
Restaurants with dine-in areas are still very viable in the Vaccine Era, Damico noted.
“There's pent-up demand to get out,” Damico said, and Fuzzy’s units have seen that in positive same-store sales increases.
A Fuzzy’s franchisee has also created a Taqueria concept in Minneapolis that is only about 1,100 square feet, so the brand does have smaller options, Damico said.
Fuzzy’s recently entered a new state, Wyoming, with a new franchisee in Casper, Damico said.
“The industry is coming back in the different markets that we operate,” he said.
“When you think about Fuzzy’s,” Damico added, “we've got restaurants that are 4,000 and 5,000 square feet and we've got restaurants that are 1,100 square feet. They are all performing way better than 2019 and then certainly significantly better than 2020.”
Before joining Fuzzy’s in August, Damico served as CEO of Global Franchise Group LLC. Prior to that he was president of Atlanta-based Focus Brands with oversight of six internationally recognized brands.
NRD Capital Management in 2016 acquired a majority stake in Fuzzy’s, founded in 2003 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@Informa.com
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless