Mississippi-based Eat Here Brands, LLC may not have a familiar name. But, chances are, you know of them by reputation and, most importantly, taste. So says Ned Lidvall, President and CEO of the new chain restaurant development company that’s planning to expand Five Guys Burger and Fries, Babalu Tacos & Tapas, and a classy casual restaurant and bar concept across the Southeast.
Eat Here Brands was founded by celebrated Mississippi restaurateurs, Bill Latham and Al Roberts, and two veteran chain restaurant CEOs. Together Latham and Roberts created the Babalu Tacos & Tapas, and Table 100 concepts in Jackson and have ownership in the Interim Restaurant & Bar in Memphis. Latham and Roberts also created the popular Jackson restaurants Amerigo and Char, before selling these two brands in late 2006 to another restaurant group owned by a private equity firm.
Latham and Roberts teamed up with chain restaurant pros Mike Stack and Ned Lidvall in early 2012 to create a development company to secure financing for their brands’ expansion into new markets. That company, Eat Here Brands, has raised over $10 million for the expansion, which is projected to create 1,500 jobs in the Southeast over the next five years through the opening of the new restaurants.
According to Mike Stack, the Executive Chairman of Eat Here Brands, “Mississippians represent by far the majority of the investors right now because of their experience dining in Bill Latham and Al Roberts restaurants over the past 20 years. Here in Mississippi, people know these men represent a very high quality dining experience.”
The founding management team combines more than 140 years of chain restaurant and franchising business experience and have together invested $1.25 million in the company.
Bill Latham (full bio online) is well known locally and nationally in the restaurant industry. Latham was also one of the owners of Scrooges Old English Pub, Sundancer Restaurant, Amerigo, and Char Restaurants located in the Jackson Metro. Most recently he and partner Al Roberts created Babalu Tacos & Tapas and Table 100 Restaurant and Piano Bar. Latham says, “Of all the projects Al and I have worked on over the years, Babalu should be the most fun.”
Al Roberts (full bio online) teamed with Bill Latham first at Sundancer Restaurant and later at Amerigo and Char Restaurants serving as COO and Corporate Chef. His efforts led to the development of LR Restaurants and their current restaurant concepts, Babalu Tacos & Tapas, Table 100 Restaurant and Piano Bar, and Table 100 Banquet and Event Center, all operated by Roberts and his partner Bill Latham.
Mike Stack (full bio online) is the former Chairman and CEO of McAlister’s Deli Restaurants, where he led the restaurant franchisor through a period of rapid growth. He is also the former Chairman of Quaker Steak and Lube and is currently on their Board of Directors. Stack has over 50 years of experience in the chain restaurant, franchising, and hospitality industry.
Ned Lidvall (full bio online) has more than 30 years of experience in successfully managing and operating leading restaurant companies. Lidvall rose to become President and Chief Operating Officer of On the Border Cafés, later negotiating their acquisition by Brinker International. He then served as President and CEO of Rock Bottom Restaurants, which operated 135 restaurants and had over $400 million in sales. “Bill and Al have a unique insight into creating the kind of restaurant concepts that people here in the Southeast absolutely love. It’s rewarding to be a part of the team that’s going to take these unique concepts to the next level of success,” said Ned Lidvall.
The three brands that represent Eat Here Brands LLC are:
Five Guys Burgers and Fries is a well-known national leader in the “better burger” sub-segment of the quick-casual restaurants. The brand grew nationally by 33 percent in 2011 and is a $1 billion company. Currently there are 1,080 Five Guys’ locations in 48 states and Canada with plans to open in Great Britain. “Inarguably, Five Guys is the dominant leader in this fast-growing segment. Nationally, more than 182 locations were added just last year, and another 290 will be added in 2012,” stated Lidvall. “They are an obvious success story.” Eat Here Brands plans to open 10 more Five Guys restaurants in Mississippi within the next four years, creating 400 new jobs in the state. The newest Mississippi Five Guys Burgers and Fries opened in Hattiesburg on November 30, 2012.
Lidvall also noted that sales within the quick-casual category never declined with the economic downturn. “The chain restaurant industry is expected to generate $638 billion in sales this year—the industry never went negative with the downturn in the economy. Quick-casual restaurants have performed particularly well because they continue to meet consumer demand for quality food and great price value,” he said.
Babalu Tacos & Tapas is a “game changer” that’s rare in the restaurant industry, notes Lidvall. “Babalu is relevant—first, best, and different—because of its unique brand personality,” he continued. Babalu registers strong use with Millennial and female guests, as well as baby boomers. Small plates are the core to our success with bold flavors and fresh ingredients from local supply chains. “With plans to open more Babalu restaurants across the Southeast, I haven’t seen a brand that I am as excited about as this one,” added Mike Stack, Chairman of Eat Here Brands.
Eat Here Brands’ third platform is the newest addition opened by Bill Latham and Al Roberts. Positioned between casual dining and fine dining, this specialty restaurant group consists of two developed concepts, Table 100 Restaurant and Piano Bar in Flowood, MS and Interim Restaurant & Bar in Memphis, TN. According to Roberts, “the restaurants’ farm-to-fork quality with culinary graduates working in the kitchen and hand-crafted mixes on the bar side of the house makes them timeless.” According to Latham, “Plans are to evolve these brands in the near future for a yet-to-be-named classy casual restaurant brand.”
Eat Here Brands combines the experience and talent of two of Mississippi’s best-known restaurateurs, Bill Latham and Al Roberts, with the vision and leadership expertise of chain restaurant pros, Ned Lidvall and Mike Stack. The company operates Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Babalu Tacos & Tapas, and Table 100 in the Jackson, Miss., metro, and Interim Restaurant & Bar in Memphis. The Founders of Eat Here Brands have launched some of Mississippi’s best-known restaurant brands, including Amerigo, Char, and McAlister’s Deli. Stack and Lidvall have both national and international chain restaurant development experience. Visit eathere.com/press.