Portfolio company of Revolution Growth; HPE Fund Investment; CAVA Grill soars as much as 113% after IPO on the NYSE.
CAVA’s founders had a vision to bring heritage, heart, health, and innovation to the fast-casual sector. – Todd Klein, Revolution Growth
Revolution’s partnership with CAVA began in 2015, when the Mediterranean fast-casual chain had just a dozen locations in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. That financing kicked off a period of accelerated growth for the company — from creating a compelling digital offering to acquiring a company three times its size to scaling to more than 250 locations across the country — that led CAVA to today: its public debut.
The restaurant group that’s now trading on the New York Stock Exchange has a rich history that goes beyond its first fast-casual concept in Bethesda or even its initial Mezze location in Rockville, MD. Founders Ike Grigoropoulos, Dimitri Moshovitis, and Ted Xenohristos grew up together. All three were children of first-generation immigrants who instilled in their sons an enduring appreciation for food, heritage, and making room at the table. Later in life, alongside their fourth co-founder, CAVA CEO, Brett Schulman, they endeavored to turn those shared values into a business that furthered the fast casual model through a tech-forward approach to optimizing the customer journey — all without compromising authenticity, health, or hospitality.
So, how did Ike, Ted, Dimitri, and Brett go from an idea to a restaurant to a packaged food business to a fast-casual chain to a national brand? I sat down with Brett to discuss the company’s journey to scale and the ingredients that factored into CAVA’s success.
An ambitious goal to bring the Mediterranean Way to customers everywhere in a convenient, nutritious, and modern form. For CAVA’s co-founders, taste and hospitality unite. They believe communities everywhere benefit from accessible cuisine that’s proven to be among the healthiest and heartiest in the world. So they kept their focus trained on meeting more people in more places — through digital innovation and geographic expansion — with food that fuels and connects.
Balancing discipline with innovation: Running a restaurant is hard. Scaling a national restaurant chain presents a longer list of challenges. To create a brand that resonated with customers across the country, CAVA had to be at the forefront of food and customer touchpoints while maintaining consistency across geographies and channels. The resulting approach was risk tolerant but thoughtful:
- CAVA opened its first store beyond the D.C. region on the opposite coast, and had co-founder, Ted Xenohristos, move west to shepherd the company’s market expansion;
- CAVA was among the first to adopt digital ordering, and evolved stores to include make lines to meet online demand without disrupting in-store traffic;
- CAVA bucked fast-casual precedent by sourcing ingredients directly, and built relationships with growers and suppliers to ensure quality, sustainable inputs.
That deliberate balance paid off, but CAVA wouldn’t be where it is today without…
A few leaps of faith: Notably its acquisition of Zoës Kitchen in 2018. The deal took the then-public company (which was significantly larger than CAVA at the time) private. The approach to geographic expansion was unorthodox, to say the least, and required leadership, partners, and investors to lean in to make the move work. While risky, the acquisition proved CAVA’s portability in dozens of markets and positioned the company as the preeminent player among Mediterranean chains.
A finger on the pulse and eye for the future: If you follow CAVA, used its app, or stumbled across its campaigns, you’ll appreciate its plugged-in presence. Its captivating tone, relevant content, and user-focused approach have enabled the company to partner with like-minded influencers, reach new audiences, capitalize on the order-ahead market, and generate a loyal following of brand enthusiasts. It’s also allowed the company to lean into its strengths according to customers and stay ahead of the fast-casual curve.
A commitment to culture: Ike, Ted, Dimitri, and Brett grew up in the restaurant industry. Their parents worked in kitchens, and they too, had jobs in food that informed their thesis of how service employees should be treated and set up for success. Those convictions evolved into a culture at CAVA in which quality of life and growth are priorities. That commitment to culture has overwhelmingly paid off, with pillars like above-standard wages and ample career opportunities translating into less churn, more continuity, and a galvanized team.
CAVA’s IPO isn’t a “mission accomplished” moment — it’s the beginning of a new chapter in which its world-class team will find more relevant, engaging, and pioneering ways to bring folks to the table. CAVA’s future as a public company looks bright, and Revolution Growth is incredibly proud to have partnered with the company to help bring its vision of food with heart, health, and humanity to fruition.
–Written by Todd Klein, Revolution