When the private equity firm Mercato Partners’ $200 million Savory Restaurant Fund obtained a majority interest in Hash Kitchen, it had one clear goal in mind: transform the brand into the breakfast/brunch category’s dominant player west of the Mississippi.
The potential is clear as soon as one enters the restaurant, says Andrew Smith, managing partner of Savory. There’s a DJ stand, and the walls are covered with clever artwork and phrases, like “brunch goals,” “the brunch life,” and “bloodies are for breakfast, breakfast is for bloodies.”
Hash Kitchen’s most eye-catching feature is what Smith calls “one of the largest Bloody Mary bars known to man.” The build-your-own setup includes 50-plus toppings like pickled okra and wings.
The Arizona-based concept describes its food menu as a chef-driven reimagining of breakfast classics. For instance, there’s the $12 Protein Packed Buttermilk pancakes (old-fashioned rolled oats, bananas, fresh berries, chia seeds, and sweet mascarpone) and the $13 Captain Crunch Peanut Butter and Jelly French Toast (Captain Crunch–encrusted Texas toast, creamy peanut butter, strawberry jelly filling, and powdered sugar).
“The sights, the sounds, the smells, the experience overall, how you felt, the food quality, all of those items when you walk out—it was memorable. It just didn’t feel like a breakfast diner,” Smith says. “It’s experiential, extremely Instagrammable, extremely cult-following oriented, where people just love it down there. And then when we look at the store-level economics, they’re well above anything we’ve seen in the industry.”
The breakfast/brunch brand was founded in 2015 by celebrity chef Joey Maggiore, his wife Cristina, and partner Flora Tersigni. Hash Kitchen falls under the Maggiore Group, which is also the proprietor of the Sicilian Butcher and the Sicilian Baker.
Going forward, Savory will handle expansion strategies while Maggiore focuses on menu development. The plan is to open five to six stores this year, depending on the impact of various macroeconomic factors. Next year, the investment fund will look for 15 additional units.
“We believe that Hash Kitchen was the cool kid on the block as far as a.m. eateries [are concerned],” Smith says. “In the a.m. eatery category, too, we believe that there’s just a lot of white space. If you look at a lot of the United States, there are several markets that are just overrun by breakfast concepts, but there are a lot of markets that are so underserved.”
With each new outlet, Savory will make a concerted effort to lean into Hash Kitchen’s dining room power, Smith says.
Smith, who was previously CEO of the restaurant development firm Four Foods Group, notes that breakfast, brunch, and experiential concepts lose their strength when the environment is condensed. With that in mind, future Hash Kitchen locations will remain at more than 4,000 square feet, bucking the trend of casual dining’s move toward smaller boxes.
“We’re going to stay tableside, and we’re going to stay casual and we’re going to stay experiential because that’s what we believe the market wants,” Smith says. “If they didn’t want it, the sales would be going down, and [Maggiore] would have been having a hard time with sales before we bought in. But he hadn’t because people still want that experience. They don’t want everything digital.”