Cava Seizes Title as Largest Mediterranean-Style Restaurant Chain in the U.S. Through Strategic Acquisitions and Data-Driven Expansion

Cava, the fast-casual Mediterranean-style restaurant chain, has become a nearly $4 billion business by implementing an unconventional growth strategy. This strategy involved purchasing Zoe’s Kitchen, a competitor four times its size, and converting all its locations into Cava restaurants, allowing rapid expansion at a reduced cost. With the last Zoe’s Kitchen conversion completed in October 2023, Cava now faces the challenge of organic growth, aiming to open new locations based on extensive customer data. The chain’s future growth is ambitious, targeting a 15% increase in store numbers and expansion into new regions, despite the economic slowdown impacting the restaurant industry.

  • Cava has turned Mediterranean dishes into a nearly $4 billion business.
  • The chain grew rapidly by acquiring and converting Zoe’s Kitchen locations into Cava restaurants.
  • In 2018, Cava bought Zoe’s Kitchen for $300 million when Zoe’s had 261 locations, compared to Cava’s more than 70.
  • Zoe’s Kitchen was struggling financially and had lost its brand focus, making it an attractive acquisition for Cava.
  • Cava’s expansion strategy allowed it to scale quickly and at half the cost of opening new restaurants from scratch.
  • The last Zoe’s Kitchen was converted in October 2023, marking a shift to organic growth for Cava.
  • Cava went public in June 2023 and is now in 24 states plus Washington, D.C.
  • The Mediterranean diet’s rising popularity is hoped to bolster Cava’s appeal across the country.
  • Cava reported a net income of $6.8 million with a restaurant level profit margin of 25.1% in its last quarterly report.
  • The company plans to open at least three restaurants in Chicago, its first major foray into the Midwest.
  • Cava aims to open 47 to 50 new restaurants in 2024, using customer data to inform location choices.
  • Despite the economic slowdown, Cava plans for a 15% growth in store numbers next year, outpacing other US-based restaurant chains.

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