The fast-casual chain &pizza has received $25 million in growth funding that will enable the Washington, D.C.-based operator to expand into new markets, the company said Tuesday.
AVALT, a family-office investment firm, led the investment. The firm’s partners have invested in Outback Steakhouse, Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts, among other restaurant brands. Existing shareholders of &pizza also participated in the funding round. The $25 million funding round follows a $10 million investment in 2015.
&pizza will use the funds to add locations, and will open a unit in New York City’s NoMad neighborhood in mid-2017.
“We are approaching this next phase of growth with the same excitement as when we opened our first location,” &pizza CEO Michael Lastoria said in a statement. “Due to the success we have enjoyed and achieved to date, &pizza generated significant investment interest. We ultimately chose AVALT given their deep and relevant investment experience, and desire to create a long-term partnership to help us embark on the next level of our ambitious journey.”
&pizza was founded in 2012, in Washington, D.C., and uses organic dough and non-GMO produce. The chain also offers gluten-free and vegan items, and works with local producers to create innovative menu offerings. The pizzas have a unique shape, six inches wide and 17 inches long. Customers can create their own versions.
&pizza calls its employees a “Tribe.” More than 60 employees and 25 customers have expressed their devotion to the brand by tattooing the chain’s ampersand on their bodies.
This year, &pizza expanded to Baltimore and Philadelphia, and is opening six locations in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The chain expects to have 21 units by the end of the year.
“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Michael and the &pizza team as they look to expand beyond the broader D.C. market,” Ian Reynolds, founding partner of AVALT, said in a statement. “While there are many players in the high-growth, fast-casual pizza segment, &pizza wins on their uniqueness of vision, taste of their pizzas and the quality of their Tribe.”
The deal is the latest investment in a small growth chain by a growing number of investors that include not only private-equity groups, but strategic investors like The Cheesecake Factory and alternative investors like family offices.
Despite current concerns about restaurant industry sales, the funds keep flowing.
“New concepts are appealing to investors today,” said Larry Reinstein, president of LJR Hospitality, at the Restaurant Finance and Development Conference in Las Vegas Tuesday. “The deals are everywhere.”