December 1, 2002

Castanea Partners Announces New Transaction

Castanea Partners announced that it has teamed with Phillip Romano, the founder of eatZi’s Market & Bakery, and senior management to purchase eatZi’s from Brinker International (NYSE: EAT) for an undisclosed sum.

eatZi’s Market & Bakery ( is an innovative specialty retailer offering chef-crafted meals, fresh baked goods, and specialty packaged food designed for customers who value both convenience and exceptional food. eatZi’s currently operates in four locations; Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Rockville, Maryland. From the start, eatZi’s has enjoyed tremendous customer loyalty. All four stores opened with the highest average per-store revenues in the industry, and twenty-five percent of its customers visit three or more times each week.

Robert Smith, Managing Partner of Castanea Partners commented, “eatZi’s customer value proposition is unique and incredibly powerful, as evidenced by their tremendous customer loyalty. What is equally impressive to us is the job Phil and his team have done over the last few years refining the operating model to deliver attractive store-level economics.”

For the past two years, eatZi’s Market & Bakery has been managed by founder and CEO Phil Romano – developer of nationwide restaurant concepts Fuddrucker’s, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and Cozymel’s – and former Cheesecake Factory executive Diana Fair, who leads the company’s operations. Joining the team as co-CEO is Rick Claes who, as CEO of Thornton Oil Corporation, helped build a chain of over 150 convenience stores which generated nearly $1 billion in annual revenue.

“One of the strengths of eatZi’s is its superb management team whose extensive experience is a perfect complement to this unique blend of food service, grocery and convenience retailing”, said Brian Knez, Managing Partner of Castanea Partners. “Phil and his team have created a strong employee culture focused on providing an exceptional customer experience. We are excited to work with them to refine the eatZi’s concept while significantly expanding the store base.”

“The Castanea Partners team brings more than money to this transaction,” Romano said. “Their knowledge and operating experience with upscale specialty retail brands such as Neiman Marcus and Kate Spade will be invaluable as we grow and refine the eatZi’s concept.”

About Castanea

Castanea is a private equity firm that works in partnership with founders and management teams of innovative passion brands to grow their businesses through a combination of capital investment and operating expertise. We are focused on select consumer verticals including beauty, food and beverage, multi-unit services, and enthusiast lifestyle. We typically invest between $15 to $150 million of equity in minority or majority transactions. Our team of talented operating executives offers critical expertise in key verticals and functional areas, and provides our partner companies with strategic and tactical support. Castanea has more than $1 billion in assets under management and is currently investing from a $735 million fourth fund. For more information about Castanea Partners read our story.

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