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Mercato Partners appoints new Operating Partner for Savory Funds

Mercato Partners, a private equity firm that provides capital and guidance to brands in periods of high growth, has appointed well-respected restaurateur, James Park, to the firm’s Savory Fund Practice (Savory) as an operating partner. 

This appointment follows the recent closing of Savory Fund II, a USD100 million investment vehicle devoted to backing emerging and profitable restaurant concepts. Park will utilise his well-curated network, deep understanding of operations within the F&B industry, technology and invaluable experience to partner with the fund’s investment professionals to maximize operational implementations and margins within the Savory portfolio. 

Park brings two decades of restaurant and retail operating experience – both as a franchisee owner/operator and in the C-suite – to Savory and has received multiple accolades for his accomplishments. Most recently, he led Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh, a leading Denver-based Mediterranean fast-casual brand, as Chief Executive Officer from 2015 through its sale to Centre Lane Partners in 2020. 

During his tenure at GARBANZO, Park led the company to four years of consecutive same store sales growth, grew the company to 26 locations across 13 states, and added topline revenue to each unit. Fast Casual magazine recognised GARBANZO as its No4 Movers & Shakers brand in 2019, while QSR Magazine named the restaurant its 40/40 List, which featured 40 brands under 40 units that are “ready to make their mark on fast casual.” 

Park also received several personal accolades for his leadership, including being named one of Nation’s Restaurant News Power 40 executives each year from 2016 through 2019, and as one of Fast Casual’s Top 25 Most Influential Executives from 2017 through 2019. Denver Business Journal also named Park its Most Admired CEO in 2018. 

Prior to GARBANZO, Park held executive operating roles at fast-casual chains Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, Charley’s Grilled Subs, and Penn Station East Coast Subs, as well as a global marketing role at 7-ELEVEN. He began his career at IBM Global Services designing and implementing advanced Customer Relationship Management tools for Fortune 500 companies. 

“We are fortunate to welcome to Savory one of the best operators in the restaurant industry, James Park,” says Andrew K Smith and Greg Warnock, Managing Partners of the Savory Funds. “From the beginning of our discussions, it was clear that we view the industry similarly and that our combined ideas and philosophy of unlocking maximum value in exciting new brands are completely aligned. James’ track record of success will be a tremendous resource to our team as we continue to grow our current portfolio and add new and exciting brands in Fund II.”  

“I am thrilled to be joining Savory, who is fast becoming the leading financial sponsor for early stage emerging brands in the food and beverage industry,” says Park. “In just a few years, they have built an enviable track record with five incredible companies, and I am excited to support the firm’s existing portfolio brands, identify new brands and help build out many more.” 

“The Savory team and I are strongly aligned in the execution of our strategy – everything from financing, design, operations, customer experience and most importantly, how to treat employees. Savory was able to navigate through the pandemic without laying off or furloughing a single team member, which speaks volumes to their priorities. I am a big believer in the Savory playbook for growth and operational excellence, and I look forward to hitting the ground running,” adds Park. 

In addition to his executive roles, Park is a leader in his community and wants to see others succeed in the industry and benefit from his expertise. Park is the founder of Korean American Retail Executives (KARE), a professional organisation. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from St Louis University and is fluent in Korean and Spanish. 

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