New York-based Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque has announced a strategic investment in Detroit-based Slows Bar BQ. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
In a phone interview earlier this week, Mighty Quinn’s co-founder and co-CEO Micha Magid said he and his team have been searching for months for a complementary brand to enable his company to grow into new markets through a minority acquisition. Slows currently operates a handful of locations in Michigan. Mighty Quinn’s currently has about 15 locations in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Dubai, and an imminent entry planned for Maryland. In 2022, Mighty Quinn's opened five of its 15 locations. This transaction offers Mighty Quinn’s an immediate presence in the Michigan market not currently served by the brand’s existing portfolio.
“This is an opportunity to create a play in fast casual barbecue that can allow us to expand into new markets with like-minded brands. Rather than us try to build into new markets from scratch, we found a company that aligned with our values and food and said, ‘let’s join forces instead of going into each other’s neighborhoods,’” Magid said. “I don’t recall a brand of our size taking on a new brand to expand into a new region. This is a new way of how we’re thinking about scale.”
Scale, Magid adds, has become more important than ever, particularly as inflation persists. Mighty Quinn’s entered Florida last year, for instance, and had to set up a new supply chain to support that expansion.
“We’re seeing that the minimum requirements to get into broadline distribution are higher than what they used to be. In fast casual barbecue, we’re all essentially buying the same things, so this ability to get some synergy value off of better supply chain costing is a big part of this [strategy],” Magid said. “The bigger we become, the happier distribution partners become and the easier and more cost effective the business gets.”
There will also be some menu and tech collaborations between the two brands per this deal, including building up native online ordering and loyalty systems.
In addition to synergies and efficiencies, Magid said Slows’ diverse real estate strategy and history were also attractive for the team. Slows was founded in 2005 by Chef Brian Perrone and Phillip Cooley. The team identified a mostly abandoned block in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown, to get their business off the ground. Now, Slows operates three brick-and-mortar locations, Slows To Go, a food truck and stands inside Ford Field, Detroit’s Huntington Place Convention Center and Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan Hospital.
“The nostalgia of seeing that business grow in Detroit after starting in what was a vacated building and growing it into a hub – we loved that aspect of Slows,” Magid said. “And we’re also huge fans of what they’re putting on the plate. When we sat down with them and broke bread – or cut brisket – for the first time, there was a familiarity that resonated with us.”
Slows is eyeing additional locations, another food truck and a retail line. Mighty Quinn’s is also continuing its expansion in the coming year and is seeking qualified franchisees for restaurants in new territories.
“We are doing this because we believe there is a big opportunity in fast casual barbecue to expand into new markets with like-minded brands. The Slows deal is the first step in joining up as one to lead to higher value,” Magid said.
“The Slows team is excited to join Mighty Quinn’s in a way that allows us to continue to grow the Slows brand throughout Michigan and other markets,” Slows' Perrone said in a statement. “Having watched Mighty Quinn’s grow from one to 15 locations over the last decade, we knew having their experience behind us would be a big advantage.”
Magid makes it a point to note that Mighty Quinn’s is not targeting a long-term system count goal, but does believe there is potential in the category to reach at least 100 units.
“Fast casual barbecue is much more represented than when we started, but there is still a lot of white space. It’s early innings for this category,” he said. “We think it’s the right move to strategically grow like we’re doing with Slows and scale up and get more leverage.”
The Mighty Quinn’s and Slows brands will continue to operate separately but will exist under a new holding company. As part of the transaction, Magid will join the newly-created Slows board of directors, including three Slows principals along with industry veteran and former president of BurgerFi, Patrick Renna. The new owners were advised on the transaction and future growth strategies by Ross Pascal, managing partner of Boston-based NewDelta Capital Partners LLC.
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]