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Mediterranean chain Cava confidentially files for IPO

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A logo outside of a Cava restaurant location in Chantilly, Virginia.

Kristoffer Tripplaar | Sipa USA | AP

Mediterranean chain Cava announced Monday it has confidentially filed for an initial public offering.

It’s the first restaurant company so far this year to take the first step toward a public market debut, following a drought of IPOs in 2022.

Cava Group was founded in 2006 and opened its first fast-casual location in 2011, modeling its build-your-own Mediterranean meals after the formula made popular by Chipotle Mexican Grill. In 2018, it bought Zoes Kitchen for $300 million, taking the chain private. The company is converting Zoes locations into new Cava restaurants, expanding its footprint.

Cava also sells its dips and spreads, like spicy hummus, tzatziki and tahini dressing, at Whole Foods and other grocery stores.

The company raised $230 million in April 2021 at a valuation of $1.71 billion, according to Pitchbook data.

Cava said Monday the offering is subject to market conditions and other factors. Last year, the war in Ukraine, soaring inflation and recession fears caused many companies to scrap their plans to go public. Among those was Panera Bread, which was founded by Cava investor and Chairman Ron Shaich.

Investors have had mixed reactions to fast-casual restaurant chains over the last year. Chipotle’s stock has risen 13% as price hikes have fueled sales growth, but salad chain Sweetgreen has seen its shares lose more than half their value over concerns about its path to profitability.

Cava CEO Brett Schulman told CNBC in 2019 that the company was profitable at that time, which could make the offering more attractive to potential shareholders.

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