Bamboo Sushi is going to open locations in Seattle and San Francisco, and that has a lot to do with an investment that barely got any attention. Last month, news broke that Bain Capital invested in Sustainable Restaurant Group, the Portland-based company behind eco-friendly Japanese restaurant and its fast-casual, poke-happy compatriot Quickfish. Folks may know Bain Capital as Mitt Romney’s old stomping grounds, a private equity firm that accrued a heaping pile of bad press around 2012. We checked in with Cory Schisler, the creative director behind SRG, to clear the waters about the new stream of investment. Here are some of the obvious questions — and the company’s response.
God, why Bain of all places?
As far as private equity firms go, Bain has really stepped up its act since it was called out for gutting small companies during Romney’s campaign. In particular, Bain Capital founded a private equity fund called Double Impact that specifically focuses on socially conscious investments — “the hippie flower children within Bain Capital,” in Schisler’s words. In 2017, the fund announced its first two investments: an organic waste recycler and a gym chain called Impact Fitness. The fund recently stepped into the world of restaurants, investing in SRG and the buzzy vegan burger chain By Chloe this year. “They’ve been really respectful of our mission and our expertise in that space,” Schisler said. “You see the passion our team at Bain has about what we’re doing, and it’s extremely genuine.”
How did this happen?
SRG was looking to expand and needed some help to do it. The restaurant has already opened locations in Denver, and the team started shopping around for investors. “It almost felt like speed dating,” Schisler said. The team was hesitant to team up with folks who were solely interested in profit, which were several of them — SRG evaluated the firms’ other investments and “asked a lot of critical questions.” Bain seemed to be the only one with genuine interest in the mission behind SRG.
Okay, so what will they do with the money?
Primarily, the team hopes to expand: more locations in Denver, and soon, Seattle and San Francisco. California seems to be the promised land — the team has been eyeing Golden State expansion for a while now; it was the primary reason the team started looking for investors. But really, Schisler gets a lot more starry-eyed when it comes to sustainability. “We actually sat down last year and really thought about our mission was, and it’s really to change the way people eat. To do that, you have to scale,” he said. “To really impact and inspire change in other restaurants, we want to have more of a presence and more of a footprint. We want to introduce new markets to sustainable seafood... It’s a pretty nebulous thing, so there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Uh, hello, what about the restaurant openings?
No real updates yet on that front. The website says “coming soon” for San Francisco and Seattle, but no news yet on addresses or expected opening dates. Stay tuned, Eaters.
• Bamboo Sushi [Official]
• All Bamboo Sushi coverage [EPDX]
• Bain fund invests in Bamboo Sushi parent [NRN]
• Why Private Equity Firms Like Bain Really Are the Worst of Capitalism [Rolling Stone]
• The Rapid and Chaotic Rise of By Chloe [Eater]