Big Mamma Sells Majority Stake to Private Equity Firm McWin.
When you picture the next big restaurant chain, you probably have an idea of what it looks like. Quick service, ordering through some type of technology, fast options such as burgers, tacos, or salads, and no guest interaction once the food hits the table. Restaurant operators understand that having consistent quality in a full-service restaurant, especially across vast geographic locations, can be a true logistical nightmare. However, one EU restaurant group ignored conventional thinking and it just paid off in a big way.
This past week, Big Mamma restaurant group sold a majority stake to London based private equity group McWin, valuing the group at just over $285 million. If you have never heard of Big Mamma, as very few American have, the group was founded in 2013 by two Frenchman, Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux, who shared a passion for Italian cuisine. 10 years later, Big Mamma has expanded to 23 restaurants across England, France, Spain, Germany, and Monaco. Henry McGovern, one of McWin’s founding partners, said Lugger and Seydoux had “pioneered a new type of restaurant experience, providing customers with a truly unique and memorable visit at every site.” (Financial Times)
Big Mamma is truly bucking the trend for what a typical growing restaurant group looks like. They are known for their “extravagantly designed restaurants and affordable prices”, serving over 15,000 customers per day across the 23 locations. The majority of the 2,400 staff members are Italian and almost all the ingredients are sourced directly from Italy. Many of the restaurants go by different names, including vastly different aesthetics, but all aligned with their strong brand identity.
Big Mamma is designed to thrive in the Instagram focused era of dining. First, the Big Mamma’s elaborate design is a true draw for customers. Their restaurants Gloria and Circo Populare in London are some of the most talked about restaurants in the city. “Our memories of Italy are always the core inspiration behind the designs of our restaurants,” Lugger says. “Gloria feels like Capri in the seventies – warm and ultra-colorful with a little Big Mamma thrown in. Circolo is like a party. It’s like being at a friend’s wedding in mid-summer by the coast in Sicily.” And their food more than matches the over-the-top nature of the design. They serve dishes like La Gran Carbonara, a classic carbonara dish presented in its own hollowed out wheel of cheese, a 3-foot-long pizza, or a massive Neapolitan wedding cake. Even the name of the food is over the top, with items like Daft Punch, Egg Sheeran, and Roberto Cavatelli. (Vice)
Regardless of what country you are enjoying a Big Mamma restaurant, their ethos is clearly centered around fun and escapism. “It's like going on a holiday,” Lugger says. “At first, you're in slight shock by the new environment. It feels new and maybe a little strange, but ten minutes later, you've totally settled in and are ready to enjoy the whole experience.” (Vice)
As for next steps, Big Mamma has big plans for expansion, especially after this influx of capital. They are set to launch their fourth new location later this year in Milan, with an additional location in Spain planned for early next year. As for the US, Lugger says he is considering locations in Chicago, Miami and Atlanta, adding that it was probable Big Mamma would move to the US within the next two years. (Financial Times)
Regardless of your thoughts on extravagant, over the top dining experiences, it seems like Big Mamma is only beginning their global takeover. As long as they can continue to keep their prices low and customer demand consistent and high, while having a whole lot of fun, it appears as if the next big restaurant chain might be very different than anyone could have imagined.