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What the Acquisition of Majority Interest in Newk's Means

Newk's Founders (left to right) Don Newcomb, Debra Bryson, and Chris Newcomb
Newk’s Founders (left to right) Don Newcomb, Debra Bryson, and Chris Newcomb

Many Oxonians were surprised to learn that shortly after celebrating its 10th anniversary, a majority interest in Newk’s Holding Company, LLC, parent of the 67 units of the fast-casual Newk’s Eatery chain was acquired by private-equity firm Sentinel Capital Partners in March.
Sentinel also owns the Huddle House chain and this year acquired Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc.
Founders Don Newcomb, son Chris, and Debra Bryson started the concept with the first Newk’s restaurant (then branded as Newk’s Express Cafe, on University Avenue in Oxford. This week, Chris Newcomb, who continues as CEO of the chain, helped HottyToddy.com understand what the acquisition will mean for the future of the brand. To make a long story short, the move will foster expansion of the chain.
“Currently there are 10 company and 60 franchise Newk’s locations across 14 states,” Newcomb said. “This year alone, we will open an additional 14 Newk’s with systemwide sales exceeding $160 million, with a support team of 45 and 1,000 total employees. We have a steady pipeline of an additional 20-plus new openings for the next two years. My partners (Don Newcomb and Bryson) and I feel very strongly that Newk’s is an extremely unique experience/brand that can grow in size and breadth. With that in mind, we made the decision to find a partner that can help us to accomplish our goal.”
Newk's upscale fast-casual fare has won over customers in its decade of business.
Newk’s upscale fast-casual fare has won over customers in its decade of business.

Newcomb said he believes Newk’s has found that partner in Sentinel Capital, a Wall Street private equity firm with over $2 billion in capital.
“Sentinel has the capital and additional support to help us grow Newk’s to over 500 units in the next five to six years,” Newcomb said. “Going forward, Newk’s will continue to be a Mississippi-based company. The team is not changing. The guest will not notice any changes to the brand, the people, or the culture. Sentinel will be very supportive in strategy, growth, and financial; they are not operators. We will continue to operate Newk’s as we have for the past 10 years.”
Sentinel makes a significant capital investment into Newk’s and holds a 55% equity interest; the founders collectively hold the remaining 45% equity interest.
“In a sense, this is a true partnership in growing Newk’s, and we are looking forward to expanding the brand, sharing the Newk’s experience and culture, and providing opportunities for the team and franchisees to continue to grow in the years to come,” Newcomb said.

— Tad Wilkes, tad.wilkes@hottytoddy.com

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