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ToNeTo Atlanta has learned that plans are underway to convert the 2,297 square foot Peachtree Battle Zoës Kitchen in Buckhead into a new Cava. On February 4 we were first to report that the Washington D.C.-based chain also plans to convert the Zoës Kitchen in Tuxedo Festival in North Buckhead. The Peachtree Battle and Tuxedo Festival Zoës opened in 2009 and 2010, respectively, and were the first to open in Atlanta when Zoës had about 50 locations.
Another location at 145 Alps Road in Athens is also expected to be converted to Cava. Cava Group, parent company of Cava, purchased Zoës in 2018 for about $300 million. At the time of the purchase, Zoës operated 261 locations compared to Cava’s 66.
Neither Zoës nor Cava have commented publicly about the planned conversions but filings and planning documents linked to all three locations indicate conversions are planned for each.
Although Cava has not said as much publicly, our review of each brand’s store count suggests the ultimate plan is to strip Zoës of key locations either by closing or converting them, and ultimately phase out the Zoës brand altogether. If this does happen, it would be incredibly sad for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Johns Cassimus, son of founders Marcus & Zoe Cassimus, credits its creation with saving not only his parents’ livelihoods, but their marriage too.
Marcus & Zoe opened the first Zoës in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood in 1995. John later grew the business into the regional chain it became. When the company went public in 2014, it left its roots behind and moved its headquarters to the Dallas, Texas suburb of Plano.
In the roughly two years since the acquisition closed, the combined store count has dropped from 327 to 288, or a roughly 12 percent decrease. A deeper look at those numbers reveals something more telling. At the time of the 2018 acquisition, Zoës operated 261 restaurants, today (exclusive of the three known upcoming conversions), that number has fallen to 176 units, a 33 percent decrease. At the same time, Cava’s 2018 store count has increased to 112 (exclusive of the three planned conversions and perhaps others, too), representing a unit growth of 59 percent!
A review of the Zoës website indicates that while the company currently operates 176 restaurants, it also closed/converted at least 55 over the past year. In some cases the same locations are simultaneously listed [closed] on the Zoës site and open [active] on the Cava site. The recent closures have resulted in Zoës complete exit from the Kansas, Colorado, and Missouri markets where they operated a combined eleven locations. Two Colorado Zoës that closed were converted to Cava.
Last year, Cava Group completed seven conversions of Zoës locations and there are at least 12 in development for 2021, according to published reports. “We see the ability to unlock significant revenue growth in Zoe’s real estate when we convert it to a Cava location,” CEO Brett Schulman recently told CNBC. Cava said its collective real estate portfolio has allowed the company to enter new suburban markets more quickly, as it can convert a Zoës into a Cava location in half the time it takes to open a brand new restaurant — and at a lower cost.
Interestingly, a company representative told us recently that there are no plans to ever have reciprocal gift card policies between Cava and Zoës.
|Typical Cava menu options – photo via Cava|