Cava, the popular Mediterranean restaurant that recently started expanding into Charlotte, is acquiring the chain Zoës Kitchen for approximately $300 million.
The deal is also expected to help the two companies grow their national footprint and “expand investments in people, culinary, and tech innovation,” the companies said in a statement Friday morning.
The merger is subject to certain approvals and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.
Washington, D.C.-based Cava is a privately held company with 66 restaurants that serve Mediterranean dishes made from scratch, such as spicy lamb meatballs and cauliflower quinoa tabbouleh. The chain opened its first Charlotte location last year in University City, and will open its second location in the former Fuel Pizza spot at Park Road Shopping Center soon. Another is expected to open at Atherton Mill in South End next summer.
Cava has ties to Charlotte’s Greek restaurant community: Co-founder and executive chef Dimitri Moshovitis’s late uncles used to own the Knife & Fork, the diner that used to be at Sharon Amity Road and Independence Boulevard. Moshovitis lived in Charlotte when he was young, and worked at Dean & Deluca when it first opened around 2000.
Zoës Kitchen, a publicly traded company based in Texas, operates 261 restaurants nationwide, including eight in the Charlotte area, according to its website. The company has had a presence in the Charlotte region for about a decade.
The acquisition of Zoës will be financed through a significant investment in Cava led by Act III Holdings, the investment vehicle created by Ron Shaich, founder and CEO of Panera Bread, as well as other funds, the companies said. Under the terms of the agreement, for a 35-day period, Zoës can actively solicit alternative acquisition proposals from potential buyers.
Zoës would have to pay Cava a fee of $8.5 million if it terminates the merger agreement; Cava would have to pay Zoës a $17 million fee if it terminates the deal. Shares of Zoës were up 34 percent in midmorning trading Friday as a result of the merger announcement.