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High Bluff Capital Partners and funds managed by FS Investments to acquire Church’s Chicken

High Bluff Capital Partners (High Bluff), supported by various alternative investment funds managed by FS Investments, is to acquire Church’s Chicken, one of the world’s largest quick service chicken restaurant chains, from FFL Partners. 

Subject to customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to be completed during Q3 of 2021.

Based in Atlanta and founded in 1952, Church’s has more than 1,500 locations in 26 countries and international territories. Demonstrating considerable resiliency in the face of a devastating global pandemic, the brand in 2020 leveraged its strengths in family meals, digital offerings, delivery and to-go orders to post a strong year of performance, generating system-wide sales of nearly USD1.2 billion. Over the next year, the brand expects to expand its already sizeable domestic and international presence with the opening of more than 100 new locations, including the roll-out of its highly successful Blaze Image restaurant concept.

Specialising in equity investments in restaurants and iconic consumer-facing brands, High Bluff established its restaurant platform, REGO Restaurant Group, in 2018 with the acquisitions of toasted sub pioneer Quiznos and Taco Del Mar, a fast-casual restaurant chain offering coastal Mexican cuisine. Since then, the firm has had a transformative impact on both brands – driving significant menu innovation, modernising marketing and branding, enhancing the guest experience, and delivering best-in-class opportunities to franchisees.

“At a time when the entire restaurant industry has faced unprecedented challenges, Church’s has stood out as a notable bright spot, having emerged from the pandemic with considerable tailwinds that strongly position the brand for tremendous growth geographically as well as in the overall chicken category,” says Anand Gowda, who, prior to founding High Bluff Capital Partners served as President and Managing Partner of Metropoulos & Co.

“Our investment strategy continues to centre on identifying brands with long-term connections with consumers that can be energised and propelled to greater success through targeted industry expertise, operational efficiencies, innovation and creative brand management,” Gowda added. “Church’s fits squarely within this wheelhouse. We look forward to leveraging our robust platform and working closely with the management team and franchisees to accelerate Church’s positive trajectory.”

“In addition to becoming a premier global franchisor, Church’s has long dominated the value-oriented market in the chicken category, with a highly recognisable brand, consistent quality and delicious offerings,” says Rushabh Vora, Managing Director at FS Investments, which led a structured capital investment in support of the acquisition out of its FS Tactical Opportunities Fund along with other affiliated investment funds. “With the global chicken QSR market forecasted to grow meaningfully over the next few years, and major geographies such as China and Australia still yet to be tapped by Church’s, we see exciting growth potential for this beloved brand.”

“The past few years have been all about growth for the brand and its franchisees,” says Joe Christina, Chief Executive Officer for Church’s. “Our focus will be to deliver against our strategic plan with new locations in the US and internationally and continued profitable sales growth.”

“I am proud to continue leading the brand with High Bluff and the solid backing of FS Investments, which will give us the added momentum to truly realise our Vision to be the Global Franchisor of Choice,” Christina says. “I thank our teams and franchisees around the world for their ability to deliver and establish a framework to expand what we’re capable of accomplishing as a team.”

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