UPDATE: March 16, 2020: This article has been updated to include statements from WOWorks.
- WOWorks has acquired The Simple Greek, a 6-year-old, 24-unit fast casual Greek concept founded by Marcus Lemonis, according to a press release. The acquisition brings WOWorks' portfolio to more than 215 locations across the U.S. Details of the deal, expected to close April 1, were not disclosed, according to a separate release.
- WOWorks, which was created in December as the parent company of Saladworks, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh and Frutta Bowls is planning "explosive growth" across all of its brands through traditional locations, ghost kitchens, food trucks and grocery retail.
- This year's M&A activity is expected to pick up after the pandemic slowed deals for a few months in 2020, reflected by the only three-month gap between WOWorks' formation and this acquisition.
Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh and The Simple Greek are so similar they could be considered competitors in the Mediterranean cuisine category, which was fast-growing for a few years leading up to the pandemic. Some geographical overlap does exist between the two brands as well. Garbanzo exists in 11 states and Washington, D.C., and The Simple Greek operates in 16 states. Both brands are in Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Indiana.
"The Simple Greek is also such a great complement to our other Mediterranean-focused brand, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh," a WOWorks spokesperson said. "As such, we believe there will be cost savings, production efficiencies and menu optimization opportunities along with the share of demonstrated best practices between them."
Rather than competing, however, WOWorks plans to align The Simple Greek's infrastructure and operations closely with the Garbanzo brand to achieve cost efficiencies, drive growth and brand recognition, according to a press release. The Simple Greek has demonstrated solid growth since it was created in 2015, and generated 52% sales growth in 2019, according to Technomic.
"We are particularly confident in the potential for success going into 2021 and 2022. People want 'better for you' meals and they want to have easy, quick access to them. ... Our focus on providing high quality menu items in a fast casual setting is growing in popularity, which is why we've chosen to add the brands we have," the spokesperson said.
Lemonis said in the release that it is in the best interest of The Simple Greek's franchise owners to become part of a larger family of brands.
"This will provide them formidable buying power and resources that can help accelerate their growth," he said.
Although Garbanzo declared bankruptcy in August, James Park, Garbanzo's CEO, said the chain has a "favorable path for growth post-pandemic," and leveraging shared resources with The Simple Greek could provide somewhat of a tailwind. Tapping into consumers' post-pandemic desires to eat healthier could, too. Mediterranean cuisine has been endorsed by the American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic for its healthy attributes.