Cava Grill Gets $45 Million Funding Round in Bid to Be the Mediterranean Chipotle

  • Revolution Growth takes part in $45 million investment round
  • With 11 units in Washington area, Cava eyes broader expansion

Revolution Growth, the venture capital firm backed by AOL co-founder Steve Case, is taking part in a $45 million investment round in Cava Grill, aiming to help the Mediterranean restaurant chain expand beyond its home base in Washington, D.C.

The new funding will allow Cava to invest in technology, staffing and its supply chain, Brett Schulman, the chain’s chief executive officer, said in an interview on Thursday. The idea is to build on Cava’s 11 locations around Washington -- in addition to a line of dips and spreads available at Whole Foods -- and open restaurants across the U.S. Already, the chain is set to add several Los Angeles locations, with the first opening this month.

The financing follows an earlier round in April, when Cava raised $16 million. The chain aims to capitalize on the changing tastes of Americans: Consumers are expanding their palettes beyond burgers and pizza, and they’re paying more attention to ingredients. Cava gets its supplies from local and regional farmers and cooks the food in open kitchens.

“It’s another validation of this big shift in the way people are eating,” Schulman said of the latest funding round. “Whether you work out a few times a week or you just want to eat better food, people have become really aware of where their food is coming from.”

Fast Casual

The company is targeting the restaurant industry’s fast-casual market, a category pioneered by Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. With the right approach, Mediterranean food could see broad appeal in the U.S., Schulman said.

The funding round was led by existing investor Invus, with Swan & Legend and Revolution Growth also participating, Cava said in a statement. Some of the money will go toward improving Cava’s mobile app, including adding the ability for customers to order and pay on their phones. Schulman declined to provide revenue numbers for Cava, but said he expects sales to more than double this year. The company is profitable, Schulman said.

Revolution, founded by Case in 2005, has previously invested in companies such as Zipcar and LivingSocial.com.

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