The Six Biggest Food IPOs (PHOTOS)

The IPO market is back—and hungrier than ever. As Outback, Carl's Jr. and Fairway prepare to go public, we dig in to the year's hottest food stocks.

Bottom right: Corbis

Bottom right: Corbis

When it comes to initial public offerings, social media (hello, Facebook!), technology, and biotech tend to suck up all the buzz. As a result, the IPO schedule is a pretty good barometer of what is hot and trendy in the world of finance. But some things don’t go out of style—like eating. And while Restaurant Week in New York is winding down, Wall Street is in the midst of what seems to be a Restaurant Year. Bloomin’ Brands, the company responsible for Outback Steakhouse, held its initial public offering on Wednesday. CKE Enterprises, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., is planning on going public this week. And Fairway Groceries just filed for an IPO. Indeed, all segments of the food industry are seeing investment activity in the past few months, from massive fast-food chains to high-end steakhouses, and even a crab shack. Here’s a look at some of the most tasty offerings.


CKE Enterprises

The value proposition: The parent company of the charmingly caloric Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s franchises has more than 3,000 fast food franchises in California, Texas, the Southeast and Midwest, and boasts a “growing presence” in Latin America, Russia, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Currently owned by the private equity firm Apollo Management, which took it private in April 2010, CKE Enterprises is expected to price its shares this week.

Demographic: non-Eastern-seaboard-dwelling men unconcerned with waistlines and cholesterol measures.

Signature dish: The Amazing Grilled Cheese Bacon Six-Dollar Burger

Calories: 970

Bloomin’ Brands

The value proposition: Bloomin’ Brands is the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, purveyor of the iconic Bloomin’ Onion. But it’s a casual-dining power house. Its other units include Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. All told, Bloomin’ has 1,400 locations in 49 states and more than 20 countries. Bloomin’ is owned by a consortium of private-equity firms, including Bain Capital. The company, which sports the ticker “BLMN,” began trading on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, after raising $176 milliion. Like many companies bought by private-equity firms, Bloomin’ is saddled with debt. According to Reuters, the purpose of the IPO is to retire some of that debt.

Demographic: families, fans of Crocodile Dundee

Signature Dish: Bloomin’ Onion

Calories: 1,959 (!)

New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images

Fairway Market

The value proposition: The high-end grocery store has 11 locations in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Although the CEO, Howard Glickberg, is the grandson of the founder of the company—and his son, Dan, is an executive—the private-equity firm Sterling Investment Partners acquired a controlling interest in the firm in 2007 to help finance its expansion. According to INC magazine, the grocery chain had revenue of $455 million in 2010. Fairway, unlike the other companies listed, is filing a “confidential” IPO. Which means it can submit documents to the SEC and have them reviewed before submitting them to the public when they start marketing the IPO to investors.

Demographic: Upper West Side food snobs and their cousins in the high-end burbs of Westchester County, N.Y., and Fairfield County, Conn.

Signature Item: Bagels! In 2009, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said that Fairway’s onion bagel was “one of the best bagels I’ve ever had in my life.”

Gene Blevins, LA Daily News / Corbis

Del Frisco’s

The value proposition: The Texas based restaurant chain went public on July 27, selling 5.8 million shares of common stock at $13 a share. Smaller than Outback—and much more high end—Del Frisco’s has three brands that operate in 18 states, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, and Del Frisco’s Grille. In 2011, the chain had revenue of $201.6 million.

Demographic: Bros with expense accounts

Signature dish: 16 ounce Prime Strip

Price: $49

Ignite Restaurant Group

The value proposition: The company’s flagship brand is the 120-branch Joe’s Crab Shack, mostly in the South, East Coast, and Midwest. It also owns Brick House Tavern + Taps, a casual dining restaurant and bar with 16 locations. In May, Ignite, which had revenue of $103.4 million in the first quarter of 2012 and $405 million in 2011, staged an almost $84 million IPO on the NASDAQ. Controlled by private-equity firm J.H. Whitney Capital, Ignite is using part of the proceeds to pay down debt.

Demographic: upper middle-class suburbanites

Signature Dish: Lobster Daddy Feast

Calories: 580, 980 with side of dipping butter

Richard Cummins / Corbis

Chuy's Holdings

The value proposition: The Texas-based chain operates 36 Chuy’s which serve, not surprisingly, Mexican and Tex-Mex fare. It is proudly down-market. According to the company, the average check is only $12.99. The stock, which trades under CHUY, was offered on July 24 at an initial price of $13, and closed at $15.06 on its first day on the NASDAQ. The company had revenue of just over $130.6 million in 2011 and is owned by the private-equity firm Goode Partners.

Demographic: Austin hipsters, college students.

Signature Dish: Seasoned Ground Sirloin Burrito

Tagline: “Big as Yo’ Face”