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Bibibop Asian Grill to acquire ShopHouse locations

Deal would double the fast-casual chain’s size

Bibibop Asian Grill said Friday that it is the buyer of the leases for 15 closed ShopHouse Asian Kitchen locations, a deal that will double the Columbus, Ohio-based chain’s size virtually overnight.

Bibibop is owned by Gosh Enterprises, the owner of Charley’s Philly Steaks, and currently operates 12 locations, with a 13th under development. The deal with Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. for the shuttered ShopHouse locations will give the company 28 restaurants, once the locations are converted and the other unit opens.

“It gets us the opportunity to very quickly have a national presence,” said Jonathan Quinn, Gosh Enterprises’ vice president of marketing. “These locations are in high traffic, high visibility, high demographics neighborhood. It’s a perfect match.”

Quinn said the plan is to start converting the units in early April and have all 15 locations converted into Bibibop Asian Grills by early summer. The locations are in Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.

Chipotle said last week that it was shuttering its six-year-old ShopHouse chain, and that it had sold the leases. Quinn indicated that Gosh Enterprises won a bidding war for the right to the leases.

Bibibop is the brainchild of Charley Shin, CEO of Gosh Enterprises. The company opened its first location in Columbus, near Gosh’s headquarters. The chain’s menu offers a variation of the popular Korean dish bibimbap, which literally means “mixed rice.”

Shin is a native of Korea whose family moved to the U.S. when he was 13 years old, and who started Charleys Philly Steaks while a student at Ohio State University. Quinn said Shin started Bibibop to bring Korean food and his Korean heritage to the U.S.

Diners start with steamed rice followed by a choice of grilled meats or tofu, a variety of vegetables and Asian-inspired sauces.

The chain opened its first unit in 2013, and had 12 locations by 2016, all in Ohio. The company is planning its first Cleveland location later this year.

“It is going very well,” Quinn said. “We’re in a position of well being. It’s a healthier concept. It’s been very successful, targeting a mostly Millennial market.”

The addition of the 15 ShopHouse units, however, will give the chain a much larger profile in major markets.

“It expands us outside of our Ohio roots, and objective we’ve been looking to achieve,” Quinn said.

While Bibibop has its own dedicated team, the backing of the 570-unit Charleys Philly Steaks makes it easier for the company to quickly take on locations in disparate markets, like the ones ShopHouse operates.

And because both concepts are Asian, the conversions should be relatively simple.

“Their locations lay out nicely for our concepts,” Quinn said. “The back-of-house is similar. It’s more of a refresh and a rebrand, putting our menu in there.”

The deal also signals that Gosh Enterprises has faith in the brand to take this step.

“There are similar deals we’re considering right now,” Quinn said. “We’re very confident. It has the legs to be a national brand.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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