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In a $300 million deal, homegrown fast-casual chain CAVA acquired Texas-based Zoës Kitchen. Both serve Mediterranean food and the combined companies will now have 327 restaurants spread across 24 states. 

CAVA CEO Brett Schulman tells City Paper that the acquisition doesn’t necessarily mean that Zoës Kitchen locations will become CAVAs. “We have to go through customary closing requirements and regulatory approval,” he says. “The deal will likely close in the fourth quarter, then we will work with leadership on both sides to determine how to best grow the business going forward.”

Reuters reports that the group of investors financing the acquisition is led by Panera Bread founder and chairman Ron Shaich, who will serve as chairman of the combined company. Schulman will be the CEO. 

“The exciting thing is [the investors] are in full alignment of being long-term minded,” Schulman says. “They’re aligned to make decisions for the next ten years, not next ten months. To us it’s a great validation of what we’re doing.”  

CAVA was founded by childhood friends Ted XenohristosIke Grigoropoulos, and Chef Dimitri Moshovitis who maxed out their credit cards to open the first CAVA Mezze in Rockville in 2006. 

Many up and coming fast-casual concepts look to the company as a role model. “We’ve always put our heads down and tried to work hard to bring healthy, no-compromise food to our guests,” Schulman says. From there, he adds, opportunities presented themselves. “Focus on people and food and all this is a manifestation of that.”

Schulman said the acquisition is attractive because Zoës Kitchen has a strong presence and loyal following in the South and Southeast.