On the lookout for “eclairs in a bottle” restaurant concepts that meet the diverse needs of modern consumers, Steve Salis’ platform company Catalog is gearing up for both organic growth and strategic investments.
The &pizza co-founder and owner of Salis Holdings is expanding his network of brands under the Catalog umbrella, including the all-day brunch concept Ted’s Bulletin, which will soon have eight units, as well as the Federalist barbecue restaurant Pig and a concept of flex-laid-back Honeymoon Chicken.
Catalog is also looking to attract more restaurant brands, either through acquisition or investment, to leverage shared philosophies, efficiencies and best practices, he said. The company is set to add a seventh brand very soon, although it could not divulge details yet.
Salis is also known for creating a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, last year called Sizzle Acquisition Corp., which raised $155 million with an initial public offering. A separate entity from the privately-held Catalog, Sizzle is also pursuing acquisition targets in the restaurant, technology and retail worlds.
Salis said Sizzle is negotiating several deals and hopes to make an announcement in the near future – but on that too he couldn’t give details yet.
In the meantime, Salis is growing the six brands under the catalog umbrella throughout the greater DC area while wearing many hats as a founder, entrepreneur, investor and operator. “I think I wear those hats, as does anyone in space,” he said.
He was 25 when he co-founded fast-casual &Pizza with current CEO Michael Lastoria, although Salis left that company in 2019.
Now with Catalog, it is moving into growth mode with its existing brands. Here is what is planned:
Ted’s Bulletin was acquired from former owner Matchbox Food Group in 2017 when the casual dining chain had five units. The previous owners were “out on their skis,” Salis said, describing the chain as “stressed, not distressed.” He considers the breakfast part of the day to be underserved and a “major point of differentiation”.
Salis’ investments in the brand caught the attention of owners. Salis said the new second-generation units have bolstered dine-in options and significantly increased bar sales. First-generation stores, for example, had a food-to-alcohol ratio of around 91%/9%, while newer units are 75%/25%, which inflated margins.
By next year, the chain will double in size to 10 units.
Catalog is also exploring growth opportunities for a particularly popular bakery product from Ted’s, which are called Ted’s Tarts. The treat was originally called Pop Tarts by the previous owner, until they received a cease and desist letter from Kellogg’s, Salis said.
Ted’s Tarts is a seven-figure business on its own, Salis said. So the company is looking to scale that revenue stream, whether it’s through direct-to-consumer or wholesale opportunities, or something in between, he said.
Out of Ted also comes a limited-service bakery and cafe concept called Sidekick Bakery, which operates out of Ted’s units in some locations, but the company is also testing stand-alone units. “It will be a standalone brand,” Salis said. “The question is how far do we want to expand it.”
Federalist Pig, a flexible and casual regional barbecue concept with an average check of $25 and a full bar, is also growing under the Catalog platform. Developed with Chef Rob Sonderman, Federalist Pig opened its doors five years ago.
Nominated for its third Michelin Bib Gourmand list this year, Federalist Pig has two more brick-and-mortar locations in the works in the greater DC area. Salis said the company is waiting for permits, but a mobile kitchen serves the neighborhood at a location outside the parking lot.
This year, Sonderman also co-developed another flex-casual brand called Honeymoon Chicken. Described as “fancy meets funky,” this concept features fried chicken with a full bar, with specials around the pairings like a champagne bucket of chicken. “We’re selling more Veuve Clicquot than I ever imagined,” Salis said, adding that Honeymoon Chicken “makes international phone numbers” in sales (referring to the added zeros). “This thing is a total gun.”
Currently, Catalog is negotiating two more Honeymoon Chicken locations, which it plans to open within the next 12 months.
In the DC suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, Catalog is also testing a digital food court called Ensemble Kitchen, which offers all four brands’ menus in one kitchen, for delivery or takeout.
A year later, the experiment has given the company plenty of consumer behavior data, he said. Salis sees potential for using Ensemble as an incubation center, to test new products or concepts, but he is not currently looking for more Ensemble locations.
Under Catalog is also the iconic DC one-off concept Kramers Bookstore, a cafe, bar and bookstore founded in 1976 that has become internationally known. Salis said the bookstore’s lease was set to expire in 2019 and the founders tried to sell it to staff, but they couldn’t find funding. Salis bought it and had planned to invest in renovations, but he has now said the owner will not renew.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Kramers bookstore will have to move when the lease ends in 26 months, Salis said. He’s looking for a location near the existing Dupont Circle spot, where the restaurant and shop have been a mainstay.
“I recognize that a lot of the special sauce is indeed the location, but in light of what we want to do with it and where it might go, we’ll do something very spectacular,” Salis said.
As with all concepts in the catalog, the goal will be to bring Kramers up to date as a modern concept designed to meet the varied needs of today’s consumers.
Salis said Catalog is uniquely positioned as a potential strategic partner for “change agent” entrepreneurs who are looking for scale that doesn’t necessarily depend on unit growth alone.
“I recognize that unit growth is an important way to grow businesses,” Salis said. “It’s a way, not the way.”
While private equity investors can typically offer funding and expect a CEO to achieve certain milestones of unity and returns on investment within a certain time frame, Catalog sees things differently, he said. he declares.
“We know how to buy, we know how to build, we know how to evolve, we know how to create,” Salis said. “And so what we’re effectively doing is we want to build a platform of premium consumer brands that meets the wants and needs of the modern consumer. And we want to do it in a differentiated way.
“My belief is that it takes time,” he added. “The &pizzas, the Cavas, the Sweetgreens of the world, they are not built in five years. This takes lots of time.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
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