Restaurant, Development and Investment Firm Begins to Deploy Capital From Fund I
After a year of fundraising, restaurant investment and development group Full Course has made investments with its first $20 million fund – Atlanta-based food brands NaanStop and Fripper’s Meats+Goods.
Founder and CEO Lauren Fernandez developed Full Course to be a new kind of growth partner for independently owned restaurants that operate between one to 10 locations, with a focus on creating opportunities for brands owned by women, minorities or that are culturally diverse. As a leader in the restaurant industry, she desires to empower more independent restaurants to expand into many channels and from coast to coast.
The genesis of Full Course’s unique and unconventional approach to partnership comes from Fernandez’s deep experience as an industry executive and the challenges she felt as a developer, owner and operator of 11 restaurants. Even as a seasoned attorney and a consumer product and franchise expert, her playbook for successful development was not immediately obvious. There also was the difficulty of juggling daily operations with the rigors of developing eight locations in less than two years.
“Approximately two-thirds of all restaurants are a single location, and the owners don’t understand that scale is the key to financial success, nor do they understand how to get there,” she says. “So much of our industry’s diversity is in these smaller brands. With our investment strategy, we can create opportunity for the people and brands that truly represent this country, give consumers more of the foods they want and provide generous returns for our investors.”
Full Course’s approach to investment is intentionally innovative and different. A first for investment firms in this space, Full Course provides educational resources through their non-profit foundation. Full Course also provides boots-on-the-ground consulting and manages development, supporting original owners as they focus on running the day-to-day operations and leadership.
Fernandez is clear that access to principled capital is her primary goal. “Sharing the playbook for growth is simply not enough to level the playing field,” says Fernandez. “We have a deep respect for owners, we stand next to them in true partnership. To ensure they share in the benefit of that value creation, we do not take a majority share during the entire course of our investment,” adds Fernandez.
Full Course helps emerging brands all over the country grow with a method that makes them inherently more stable, thus more desirable for later investment from other investors, such as mid-market private equity. Fernandez and her team help build a five-year investment growth plan with owners to build the brand to reach total profits in the millions. To achieve that level of growth rapidly, Full Course focuses on four diverse revenue channels including traditional brick-and-mortar company stores; non-traditional development such as stores in airports, stadiums, arenas, colleges, universities and hospitals; product development and licensing; as well as franchising.
“We invest in people first and brands. Our brands all have the ability to bring something new to the table and can play in all four of our development channels,” says Fernandez. Neal and Samir Idnani, owners of NaanStop, a fast casual Indian concept, operate three locations in Atlanta and already have product lines. Colin Miles and Brandon West, owners of Fripper’s Meats+Goods, offer a line of traditionally crafted artisanal meats and already have their products in three corners of the country – the Southeast, Southwest and Northeast – including well-known Atlanta locations such as State Farm Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Full Course expects to close their first fund this year and plans to begin raising capital for its second fund early next year. With overwhelming industry support, high demand and a stacked pipeline, Full Course is optimistic about the future of the restaurant industry.
Full Course is a restaurant investment and development group that is changing the way that new businesses grow their brands. The company partners with restaurants in the early stages of development and helps them tell their stories by optimizing operations, developing strategies for sustainable growth and connecting owners or chefs with the right investors or franchise partners. Full Course Founder and CEO Lauren Fernandez has spent almost 20 years in the food and beverage industry, first as general counsel and head of franchise administration for a large company with more than 4,000 restaurants in over 15 countries, and then as an operator of a successful restaurant group. Fernandez was recently named to Nation’s Restaurant News Power List. By providing support and expertise to burgeoning restaurant brands on the front end, Full Course is setting up a strong foundation for growth for them and their potential investors, from which they can successfully realize their dreams. Learn more at www.fullcourse.com.