Ex-McDonald’s CEO Thompson buys majority stake of PizzaRev chain – Consumer News

on May23

23 May 2017 | 10:30 am

Former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson and his venture capital firm, Cleveland Avenue, have acquired a majority stake in a fast-growing, fast-fired pizza chain called PizzaRev, the companies said today.

It’s the biggest acquisition so far for Thompson, who left the world’s largest burger chain in early 2015 and later that year quietly launched his food accelerator business.

Thompson’s company, named after the Near North Side street where he was raised, earlier this year launched Drink, a nonalcoholic beverage bar inside an American Eagle Outfitters flagship store in New York’s Times Square. It also has an investment in a Washington, D.C., fast-casual restaurant called HalfSmoke and this spring took a stake in Farmer’s Fridge, a Chicago-based salad-maker that does most of its sales via branded vending machines.

PizzaRev, a franchisor hatched in Los Angeles by music industry executives Irv Zuckerman and Nicholas Eckerman in 2012, operates about 40 restaurants in the U.S. and Mexico, with plans to develop some 200 more in Mexico and in 14 U.S. states. Its growth was spurred in 2013 when Minneapolis’ Buffalo Wild Wings took a stake in the company; it does not yet have an Illinois location.

“This is more than an investment; this is a partnership.” Thompson said in a statement. “We’re attracted to PizzaRev because of its potential for scale and growth.”

PizzaRev is among a wave of fast-fired pizza joints to flood the U.S. marketplace within the past five years. These new players, which traffic in personal-sized, assembly-line thin-crust pies that cook in under five minutes in ovens as hot as 900 degrees, now number in the dozens. In the Chicago area, competitors include Pie Five Pizza, Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, Mod Superfast Pizza, Pizzeria Persona and 800 degrees Neapolitan Pizza.

Thompson, a McDonald’s veteran who ran the Oak Brook-based company from 2012 to 2015, last fall took over a three-story, 33,000-square-foot building in the West Loop. In addition to funding and acquiring startups in the food, beverage and restaurant space, the company plans to use part of the ground floor of its headquarters for a consumer-facing retailer or restaurant.

Since his departure, he’s kept a relatively low profile, though that may be about to change with the PizzaRev acquisition. Thompson declined a request to comment.



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