EMERGING FundMedia Coverage

Restaurant-industry vets raising $100M venture fund

A Chicago venture capital fund backed by restaurant-industry veterans is looking to invest in restaurants and tech companies. Mathew Focht, a longtime consultant who has worked with chains such as Bar Louie and Cheesecake Factory on real estate and supply-chain issues, has raised more than $50 million of a planned $100 million fund.

Investors in the Emerging Fund, which takes its name from Focht’s Emerging Concepts restaurant real estate company, include Randy DeWitt, founder of the Twin Peaks restaurant franchise; Taylor Katzman, founder of online alcohol-ordering platform Provi; and Sterling Douglass, founder of restaurant software company Chowly.

Matt Menna, managing principal at Sterling Bay and co-founder of restaurant operator Four Corners Tavern Group, is a general partner in the fund.

“We were already helping operators, so we thought: Why don’t we start a fund?” says Focht, 47. “We have deal flow other funds don’t have access to because of our data and customers.”

Emerging plans to focus on restaurant concepts with one to six units, as well as restaurant-tech startups.

“The restaurant space is a challenge to finance through conventional sources,” says Jay Stieber, general counsel and partner at Lettuce Entertain Enterprises, who is an investor in the fund. “As you’re growing, it’s mostly friends and families, or private placements. The restaurant industry is really struggling with higher costs, particularly labor, and tech can help provide some solutions to those problems. There’s a good marriage between tech and restaurants.”

The fund already has made a number of investments, roughly split between technology and restaurant concepts, including F1 Arcade, the Formula One restaurant and bar concept, and Puttshack.

Article Courtesy of Crain’s Chicago Business,  John Pletz senior reporter covering technology, aviation, and cannabis for Crain’s Chicago Business. ChicagoBusiness.com is the news site of Crain’s Chicago Business, one of more than 20 business publications owned by Crain Communications.

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