Mediterranean restaurant chain Cava files for IPO as revenue climbs

Business

A person walks past a Cava restaurant location in Pasadena, California, February 6, 2023.
Mario Tama | Getty Images

Mediterranean restaurant chain Cava saw its revenue rise 12.8% in 2022, according to regulatory filings released Friday as it filed to go public through an initial public offering.

It plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange using the ticker CAVA.

Cava Group was founded in 2006 and opened its first fast-casual location in 2011, modeling its build-your-own Mediterranean meals after the formula made popular by Chipotle Mexican Grill. It acquired Zoes Kitchen in 2018, taking the rival Mediterranean chain private for $300 million.

Over the last five years, it’s converted Zoes’ footprint into new Cava locations. The last eight Zoes restaurants, which closed as of March, will open by this fall as Cava units.

Last year, the company’s net sales climbed to $564.1 million, 12.8% higher than the year earlier. For comparison, rival fast-casual chain Sweetgreen reported 2022 revenue of $470.1 million. The salad chain went public in November 2021 and has a market value of $1.06 billion.

But Cava’s regulatory filings showed it still is not profitable. Its losses widened from $37.4 million in 2021 to $59 million in 2022.

Still, the company has showed signs of getting closer to profitability. Its net loss during the 16 weeks ending April 16 was just $2.1 million, narrower than its net loss of $20 million during the year-ago period. Its sales have also picked up, rising 27.4% to $196.8 million in the same time.

Cava’s same-store sales soared 28.4% in the first quarter. Its 3.7 million loyalty members accounted for one-quarter of those sales, according to the filing.

The company has 263 locations open as of April 16 and plans to open 34 to 44 new units by the end of the year. More than 80% of Cava’s locations are in suburban areas. It anticipates it could have as many as 1,000 U.S. locations by 2032 as it branches out into new regions such as the Midwest.

Similar to fellow fast-casual chains Chipotle and Sweetgreen, Cava has been leaning into drive-thru pickup lanes for digital orders.

Cava’s market debut would break the long drought of restaurant IPOs, which began last year as the war in Ukraine, inflation and rising interest rates led to rocky market conditions. Even outside the restaurant industry, companies once eager to go public, such as Reddit and Impossible Foods, have held back, although J&J’s Kenvue spinoff was successful.

But investors might have an appetite for Cava stock despite concerns about a potential recession this year hitting restaurant demand. Sweetgreen’s shares have risen 10% this year, while Chipotle’s have climbed a whopping 51% during the same time.

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