Editor’s note: This article has been updated with details about Rusty Taco’s unit count and the status of its Alliance Kitchen location.
- Inspire Brands has sold Rusty Taco to private investment firm Gala Capital Partners, parent company of Cicis Pizza and Dunn Brothers, the companies announced on Monday. Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.
- Rusty Taco’s management team, including president Brendan Mauri, will remain in place. The team co-invested in the purchase.
- Inspire Brands grew Rusty Taco’s footprint by over 50% since 2018, when it bought a majority stake in the restaurant as part of its purchase of Buffalo Wild Wings.
Rusty Taco has been on an upward climb over the past few years, with 29.9% year-over-year sales growth in 2021, according to Technomic data cited by Restaurant Business.
Despite this improvement, the restaurant chain may not have met Inspire’s scale expectations.
“Inspire’s tightly integrated shared services model is optimized for brands at scale, and all our scaled brands have ample runway for continued growth. Therefore, we concluded that an owner focused on emerging brands would be the best partner for Rusty Taco’s next chapter of growth,” said Christian Charnaux, chief growth officer at Inspire.
Inspire’s remaining stable of brands, including Dunkin’, Jimmy Johns and Sonic, are all much larger than Rusty Taco. For comparison, Dunkin’ had 8,500 stateside units in 2021 compared to Rusty Taco’s 34 locations. GCP’s restaurant brands, which it either owns or invests in, are closer matches when it comes to footprint. Dunn Brothers has 60 units, Cicis Pizza has around 300 and Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes has roughly 100 units, according to the press release.
Inspire’s sale of Rusty Taco comes as the company doubles down on nontraditional unit expansion, including modular store formats, ghost kitchens and digital-only restaurants. Rusty Taco operated out of Alliance Kitchen, a ghost kitchen Inspire opened in Atlanta last year, for delivery and catering. Rusty Taco has been removed from Alliance Kitchen as a result of the transaction, a company spokesperson said.