Aziz Hashim has only been a private-equity investor for three years, but he’s already attracting more interested investors than he expected.
The former Popeyes, Domino’s and Checkers franchisee started NRD Capital Management LLC in 2014. This week NRD closed on its second fund, $104 million, or $4 million than it expected. The fund had so much interest it had to stop taking money — a clear sign that investors like what they see in the fund’s performance so far and want a piece of the action.
“We demonstrated that if you take an operator’s view toward brands, you get better outcomes for everybody,” said Hashim, NRD’s managing partner.
NRD brings an operator’s mentality to private equity investing in the restaurant business. It has made two deals to date: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Frisch’s Big Boy. Together, the two chains generate $450 million in annual system sales and have 220 locations.
The $104 million will provide NRD with more funds it can use to make more acquisitions. And Hashim promised more are coming.
“There’s a robust pipeline of deals we’ve been working on,” Hashim said.
NRD’s buying strategy is to partner with companies, and particularly founders who remain with their chains and keep some equity in the deal. NRD bought 70 percent of Fuzzy’s last year, when it had 90 locations, and the chain’s founders remained and kept equity in the deal.
“We work with them,” Hashim said. “It’s not the final exit. We convince them that you are acquiring a strategic partner who knows something about operations. We build a really strong company and in the future [we] have the type of exit everybody wants.”
NRD has considerable operations experience, and not just from Hashim. Chief Operating Officer Susan Black Beth is a former executive with Super Wash Inc. Director Richard Pawlowski is a former CFO with Famous Dave’s of America Inc. Directors Shawn Lederman and Harrison Price are investment veterans.
The group concentrates on unit economics and works to ensure that companies don’t choose bad sites. So though the fund is all about promoting growth, it’s not about promoting growth at all costs.
“We’re not going to sacrifice franchisees,” Hashim said. “We’re not going to open dumb units in places they shouldn't be opened just to make numbers.”
“We consider ourselves operators,” he added. “The restaurant space is mired in one form or another in poor operations. And it doesn’t just mean service.”
Hashim said that both of the fund’s initial acquisitions have been performing well, and certainly well enough to attract an enthusiastic group of investors.
“We’ve shown from our first couple of acquisitions that if you take an operator’s focus, you can do quite well,” Hashim said. “It’s a longer road. It’s not a road to quick riches. It’s a road to sustained and stronger growth, building a foundation of the brand through fundamentally good unit economics and fundamentally good food. Then help them grow in an aggressive but controlled way.”
The performance made the second fundraising much easier than the first.
“The oversubscription is based purely on our performance in fund one,” Hashim said. “With fund two, you have nothing to hide. Everybody knows what you did. With fund one, all you have is your reputation.”
The success has also generated interest from potential investments. NRD looks for deals that are not on the market. It will approach companies, but it also attracts a lot of interest itself from companies looking for the type of improvement-driven investment that NRD makes.
“We get a lot of inbound calls,” Hashim said. “They see what we’ve done with Frisch’s and Fuzzy’s. And we’ve had conversations with brands that are not quite ready yet. We encourage people to call us, talk to us. We do a lot of counseling to brands that are not quite ready yet.”
Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze