Show Video Transcript
John Wong (Interviewer) - Hi, I'm here with Brad Blum, the new Chairman and CEO of FoodFirst Global Restaurants. I'm John Wong and I'm the Strategic Partner to the business and to Brad Blum personally.
Brad, when did it first occur to you that Brio and Bravo might be a great restaurant opportunity?
Brad Blum - Oh, wow. I, you know, I've really admired these brands for a long time, both as a customer and also a restaurateur in the industry. And I've had my eye on these for a while and it's really the last several years that we put together a serious plan and eventually worked very hard to find the right investment partners and we've done that here. GP Investments is going to be a fantastic partner well into the future. We're taking a 10 plus year view and it's entrepreneurial money that's going in, including my own, and I think that's going to ultimately lead to a much better return for our investors. These brands have good bones and we have a lot that we can do to make them a lot more valuable than they are today.
John - You mention "good bones." Tell us a little bit more about "good bones." What does that mean to you?
Brad - Open dining rooms, open kitchens so we can see the culinary teams creating their masterpieces. Hearth fired oven, bringing things out whether it be roasted vegetables or pizzas or roasted chicken, things of that nature. Great bars for interacting and a lot of outdoor dining. And so we just think that we can refresh a few things and at FoodFirst, we really want to have amazing food - food that people just crave and will go the extra distance to come to and we think that very soon here our business is going to go positive again and grow for a long time into the future.
John - You acquired these brands and changed the name from BBRG to FoodFirst Global Restaurants. What was behind the name change?
Brad - Well you said that I acquired them. There's a group of people that did but I'm certainly one of the investors. You make a good point though, while I am one of the investors both GP Investments through a special fund called Spice Private Equity have made this happen. And so we took a long term view of what this could be for th company we've created - and I'm excited about this, very excited - that we've created a new restaurant company for the 21 st century. Something that's going to be progressive, relevant, diverse, and something that we believe - I certainly believe - will be highly successful. And the naming of FoodFirst Global Restaurants, we think there's a lot of restaurant companies in America unfortunately that don't pay enough attention to the food and we're going to innovate in the casual dining space, in the upper end of polished casual, to do some things that I think that are really going to catch some people's attention.
John - You have "global" in the name - do you think these brands can travel globally?
Brad - We do have "global" in the name. We are going to stay very focused in the United States and with these restaurants for the first several years, but this is not a short term investment. This is a long term investment. We feel we can take these restaurants and expand them into other parts of the world in the future. The other thing about FoodFirst Global Restaurants, it's not just Brio and Bravo - down the road, when the time is appropriate, we could create a brand internally, we could acquire another brand. There's a lot of opportunity for growth here that's above and beyond the acquisition of Brio and Bravo.
John - You were the first to introduce Tuscan cooking to Olive Garden. Where do you think Bravo and Brio can go in the future?
Brad - We are extremely excited about what I'm going to refer to as our new spiritual home for Brio and Bravo and that's the Amalfi Coast. We want to sort of take it to the coast - of having more seafood on our menu, more plant based foods, fresh lemon, extra virgin olive oil, some al fresco dining. We have a lot of restaurants where people can eat outside. Something that's very energetic and that's casual yet elegant, that is comfortable but really high quality and not stuffy, not dark, not formal.
John - Financially, what opportunity do you see in Brio and Bravo and does that opportunity lie in pricing or does it lie in adding new restaurants?
Brad - We are going to really focus on what we have first and foremost on the current restaurants and we're really going to focus on our current customers who by far are our most valuable customers. The ones that are there today. And if we can get - no matter who they are - if each customer can come back just one more time, whether they're coming once every month or once a year, that is going to have an enormous impact, upward impact, on our profitably on our financials. We're going to be brilliant with the basics of what we do and the way we run our restaurants. We're going to have the very best General Managers running each restaurant and they're set up for success. We're going to do a lot of amazing things with the menu through product improvements and through some new innovations, innovative new products brought to the menu. New restaurants will come, but they have to come at the right time. They'll come later. Remodels of most of our restaurants will come, again will have to come at the right time, a little bit later. We're going to focus on the basics first - great menu, great service and then do some of these other things to grow beyond that.
John - You're an owner partner with GP. Why did you pick GP as a partner for you on this transaction?
Brad - It's a combination of things. I would say that we are really aligned as it relates to strategy. These are people that are very professional as it relates to restaurant investments. They care deeply about the restaurants themselves. They've taken a very long term view as it relates to that, so I think that is one reason why they are going to be fantastic partners down the road. And I think that they're providing a lot of support to the leadership team. This is something that is important to me: that I have enough creative freedom and autonomy to really run the business and create innovation but do it very much in a transparent way. They have accepted that and embraced that and more importantly demonstrated that in all of our dealings of how we work together. I guess the last part - I really like them [laughing] - they're really great people. They're fun to work with, they're to be around, they're smart, they're thorough, they're respectful and I think we're going to have a lot of fun doing this.
John - That's great. Finally Brad, you have a mission of providing good food for the planet, can you elaborate on that for us?
Brad - Yeah, I mean I'm really excited about this. This is something that I basically developed after input from various people. And it kind of came out of my involvement in the restaurant space. I've had a fair amount of success in the different businesses that I've run and teams that I've worked with. I cherish these team victories, if you will. But I didn't always have fulfillment. I did sometimes and many times, but not always. And I want to have fulfillment in what I do for the rest of my life and certainly in this career that I've chosen and so providing "good food for the planet" has five defining principles to it. That we want to provide food that is exceptionally good tasting - always got to do that first and nothing else matters if we don't do that. But in addition to that, provide food that is remarkably good for you. You feel good, physically feel good after you've completed your meal. It's a good everyday value and it's good for the environment. And when I tell this to some people, they go "well that's impossible!" and I say "I love it when you say that!" because we're going to go and do this. Good food for the planet, providing good food for the planet.
The other thing here is as it relates to these specific brands, we believe in the Italian-Mediterranean way of cooking. We think it's simply better. Better ingredients, better recipes, better cooking methods, better flavors, better for you. So we've got a very clear path to follow. There's no ifs, ands, or buts - we're committed. Food First.