Everbowl founder and CEO Jeff Fenster is either totally or not at all. In March 2020, when COVID-19 hampered his ability to travel to open new stores, he moved to franchising and re-franchised all 28 corporate stores. “I believe if you want to do anything, you have to be great at it,” he said.
So when it came to expanding to Texas, Fenster wasn’t interested in half-measures. “We kind of had an eye on the state,” he said, “but I didn’t want to break into Texas with just one store.” He wanted a bigger partner to open a lot of stores, quickly.
Enter Sloan Capital, a private equity firm that recently bought the rights to open 50 new locations in the state.
Justin Sloan, CEO of Sloan Capital, said he met Fenster at an entrepreneurship conference in Arizona. He was interested in the brand and wanted to become a passive investor, but when he flew to San Diego to visit the stores, he “realized it was something completely different.” He wanted to get more involved, so he and Fenster struck a deal with Sloan Capital to handle Everbowl’s expansion in Texas.
Sloan left San Diego after “buying himself a job,” he said.
Everbowl serves healthy food in bowl form, usually fruit and cereal bowls on a bed of mixed acai, pitaya, or matcha. It is “unevolved” food, Fenster said, which means clean, healthy food that has been around forever. Sloan said the food was part of what drew him to the brand. “I’m a big guy in the closet,” he added, and Everbowl is quick, tasty, and doesn’t let him feel lazy.
Sloan Capital opened its first Everbowl store on September 9 in Dallas. Sloan said he handed out free bowls at the inauguration and that “nearly 200 people showed up.” Sloan Capital recently signed leases for two additional locations in Dallas, which Sloan plans to open early next year.
The development agreement includes the sub-franchise rights. Sloan said he is in talks with potential franchisees to open new locations in several other Texas cities. “Austin will probably be next,” with San Antonio and Houston on his heels, he said.
Sloan is an entrepreneur at heart but has no experience in the food industry. He got his start in business when he dropped out of college to open a chain of cell phone stores and then moved on to real estate investing. When he met Fenster, he said he was looking for venture capital firms to invest in.
“I really believe the food industry experience is overrated,” Fenster said. Like Sloan, he’s an entrepreneur at heart, and like Sloan, he had no previous culinary experience. Prior to founding Everbowl in 2016, he had owned a payroll company, recruiting agency, human resources firm, and digital marketing agency.
“Business is business,” Fenster said. It’s about solving problems.
One tip he learned from his previous businesses is how to “vertically integrate” and solve problems with more businesses. To speed up the construction process, he started WeBuildstuff, a construction and manufacturing company.
Sloan said it took WeBuildstuff less than a week to transform its Dallas property from a “white box” to a fully functional, branded Everbowl. He took care of picking out the real estate and making sure the utilities were plugged in – the company took care of the rest.
Besides loving the food, Sloan said he was drawn to the simplicity of the business. Stores don’t require expensive kitchen equipment like deep fryers, food doesn’t require extensive training to prepare, and builds are relatively inexpensive. He expects to spend between $ 175,000 and $ 200,000 to open each new store.
The bulk of Everbowl’s business is take-out. According to Fenster, the typical location is between 800 and 1,000 square feet, and only a handful is arranged to facilitate in-store dining.
Everbowl has signed similar agreements throughout the state of Colorado and Tennessee. Fenster’s goal is to have a store in every state, and he said that by ceding states to qualified partners, the company is able to focus its energy on new territories.
Despite this, Fenster said Everbowl is not focused on signing massive development deals. According to him, Everbowl’s best performing locations are those managed by owner-operators who are active in their community.
Everbowl has 190 stores sold but not yet open. That’s a big figure for a chain with less than 50 stores open, but Fenster pointed out that the company’s performance as a corporate chain (28 stores in less than three years) was a sign it could do it. In his mind, the biggest challenge for the business will be choosing the right franchise partners, even if the brand is growing aggressively.
Example: Everbowl recently teamed up with former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Brees is an investor and brand advocate for the company, and according to the press release, “is exploring the opening of many Everbowl franchises in Louisiana … and Indiana.” Brees is also a franchisee of Dunkin ‘, Jimmy John’s and StretchZone.