Former Jamba and Barcelona/Bartaco executives launch new blank-check company


Source:  Lisa Jennings for NRN

A group of veteran restaurant operators and investors on Friday filed for an initial public offering with the goal of raising $200 million with a new blank-check company that will likely target the restaurant industry, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Tastemaker Acquisition Corp. is the latest special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, to launch with the plan of scooping up opportunities in the restaurant sector as the industry struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. In August, &Pizza co-founder Doug Jacob and Ruby Tuesday founder Sandy Beall launched FAST Acquisition Corp., with sights set on the quick-service sector.

Like FAST, the new Tastemaker SPAC has a deep bench of industry executives and investors behind it.

Serving as co-CEOs are David Pace, former CEO of Jamba Juice Inc. and chairman of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc.’s board; and Andy Pforzheimer, co-founder and former CEO of the Barcelona and Bartaco brands, which he later sold to Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group.

Greg Golkin, managing partner at Kitchen Fund, is named as president. Kitchen Fund has invested in brands such as Cava, Curry Up Now, By Chloe, The Hummus & Pita Co. and Sweetgreen.

Tastemaker’s chief financial officer is Chris Bradley, managing director of private-equity firm Mistral Equity Partners, with a portfolio that includes Vino Volo, El Pollo Loco and Jamba.

On deck to serve as non-executive chairman is Hal Rosser, founder and managing partner of Rosser Capital Partners who was previously co-founder of Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., which was involved in many restaurant industry investments, including California Pizza Kitchen, Golden Corral, McCormick & Schmick’s and Ruth’s Hospitality Group.

Joining the SPAC’s board will be Rick Federico, former CEO of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc., and Starlette Johnson, president of Lucky Strike Entertainment.

The company cites pre-COVID growth rates for the $864 billion restaurant industry, saying it is expected to reach $1.2 trillion in revenue by 2030, citing figures from the National Restaurant Association.

But Tastemaker contends that consumers are demanding more “convenience, experiences and higher quality options.” The large-scale “legacy” chains have seen a loss in market share to the new guard of restaurateurs who are “embracing the new consumer mindset.”

That intersection of a “massive industry with quickly shifting dynamics” is ripe for investment, the company said in SEC filings.

The folks behind Tastemaker are also looking at the world of restaurant technology and the service providers supporting restaurants. The pandemic has created volatility that has forced many restaurant companies to look at strategic alternatives.

“While we believe that brands built with pickup, delivery or drive-thru concepts likely have faster short-term growth curves, there are also compelling brands in traditional dining categories that have capitalized, in recent years, on new trends in plant-based diets, casual bar-based dining and restaurant-as-experience,” the filing said. “Some of those innovative brands are ready to enter the public markets but may be facing headwinds in their larger categories. We believe that certain brands that navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic will be in a stronger competitive position in the future.”

Among the criteria Tastemaker is looking for is a company with an enterprise value of about $400 million to $1 billion.

Hedge fund and activist investor Starboard Value LLP also launched a SPAC in August.

And reports of a SPAC wave this year include a $4 billion blank-check company launched by billionaire activist Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management in July. Pershing Square is known in the restaurant industry for its role as an activist investor in McDonald’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Burger King and Wendy’s.

Contact Lisa Jennings at

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