It’s IPO time for Charlotte-based fast-food chain Bojangles’.
The Charlotte-based company known for its spicy chicken and biscuits filed paperwork Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public stock offering.
The number of shares to be offered and the price range have not yet been determined, the filing states. To calculate its registration fee, the company used a nominal fundraising goal of $100 million.
The stock would be listed on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol “BOJA.”
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Jack Fulk Sr. and business partner Richard Thomas opened the first Bojangles’ at West Boulevard and South Tryon Street in 1977. Since then it has passed through a number of ownership groups but remains based in Charlotte, with its headquarters off West Arrowood Road. The company expanded rapidly in the 1980s but later pulled back to focus on its Southern base.
Now, the company is embarking on an aggressive growth strategy, according to Monday’s filing.
Bojangles’, which operates 622 restaurants split between franchised and corporate locations, plans to expand the number of restaurants by 7 to 8 percent annually, according to the filing. But most of those new restaurants will be in areas where the company already has a high density of locations or is building up its density, it said.
Proceeds of the offering will go to certain stockholders that are selling shares, including Boston-based investment firm Advent International. But Advent will retain a controlling interest after the stock sale, the filing states.
Advent bought a controlling stake in Bojangles’ in 2011 from Falfurrias Capital Partners, the Charlotte-based private-equity firm co-founded by former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. and the bank’s former chief financial officer, Marc Oken. A source told the Observer in 2011 that Falfurrias sold the chain for around $400 million.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November that Bojangles’ had hired investment banks to pursue an IPO that could value the company at nearly $1 billion, citing people familiar with the matter. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Jefferies are the banks leading the IPO, according to Monday’s filing.
The company’s restaurants generated over $1 billion in sales in 2014, with much of that attributed to the 368 franchised restaurants. As a company, Bojangles’ generated $431 million in revenue and $26.1 million worth of profit last year. Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson owns a stake in one of the largest franchises in the Bojangles’ restaurant chain.
In the prospectus filed with the SEC on Monday, the company cited its low price point – an average of $6.68 per meal at its company-owned restaurants – and the appeal of its Southern food.
“Over the last 38 years, we believe Bojangles’ has become an iconic brand with a cult-like following in North Carolina and South Carolina and beyond due to our craveable ‘chicken ’n biscuits,’” the filing states.
The company especially touted the biscuits featured prominently in its ad campaigns, which use the tagline “It’s Bo Time!”
“Our biscuit makers are at the heart of our business, baking made-from-scratch biscuits all day, every day in our restaurants system-wide,” the filing states, also promoting its 48-step biscuit recipe. The prospectus includes pictures of various Bojangles’ menu items, such as Bo-Berry Biscuits and Fixins’.
The filing also highlights the company’s management team, including CEO Clifton Rutledge, who joined the company in January 2014 from another regional chain, Whataburger Restaurants.
When he arrived at Bojangles’, Rutledge told the Observer the company planned to grow in its core Southeastern markets, rather than expanding more rapidly to far-flung locales.
“When you get national, you try to be all things to all people. That’s difficult,” said Rutledge, a native of Mountain Home, Ark.
Bojangles’ stores are heavily concentrated in the Carolinas, home to about two-thirds of the company’s restaurants. There are 288 Bojangles’ locations in North Carolina and 121 in South Carolina. Although the company operates in 10 states and Washington, D.C., it operates only one store each in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Kentucky, and just five stores in Maryland. There are also three franchised Bojangles’ restaurants on an island in Honduras.
Monday’s filing also disclosed the company’s highest-paid executive officers’ compensation. Rutledge made $4.2 million in 2014. The bulk of it was a $3 million stock option package, as well as $442,308 in salary and $537,500 worth of bonus payments.
Other restaurant chains have gone public in recent years, tapping into a rising stock market and investors looking for growth opportunities. They’ve had mixed results so far.
Zoës Kitchen went public last year, and its stock is up 32 percent. El Pollo Loco Holdings’ stock spiked after it debuted last year but has since fallen, leaving the company up 6.5 percent. Stock in Potbelly Corp. has sunk by more than half since its 2013 initial offering.
Three Charlotte-based companies have gone public since 2013, with health care company Premier Inc. raising the most from investors: $874 million.
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Bojangles’ by the numbers
▪ Total restaurants: 622
▪ Franchised: 368
▪ Company-operated: 254
▪ Total revenue: $430.5 million
▪ Average Bojangles’ meal cost: $6.68
▪ Employees: 8,800