MOD Pizza, once the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the U.S. for two consecutive years and a fast-casual pizza leader, has a new owner.

MOD Pizza, which has more than 500 locations around the country, today announced that Elite Restaurant Group, based in Southern California, has acquired 100% of its equity “pursuant to a merger agreement between the company and an affiliate of Elite.”

Last week news reports about possible bankruptcy for MOD Pizza sent shock waves through the restaurant industry. The Wall Street Journal reported that MOD was seeking a buyer and looking into financing options to avert bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, a knowledgeable source said the Seattle-based chain could enter court protection as early as this week.

At the time, MOD released a statement, noting that it was making progress on “a solid turnaround plan,” adding, “We are working diligently to improve our capital structure and are exploring all options to do so.”

In today’s announcement, MOD Pizza said, “MOD, a pioneer of fast-casual pizza and salads, and its franchisees own and operate restaurants in 28 states and Canada. In recent months, MOD has been implementing a plan that includes rightsizing its portfolio, refreshing its brand, and further elevating guest experiences. It has made steady improvements to the overall business.”

Beth Scott, MOD’s CEO, stated, “MOD is a beloved brand with a strong following. We’re excited to work with Elite Restaurant Group to strengthen MOD’s future.”

Michael Nakhleh, Elite Restaurant Group’s founder, said, “MOD has an outstanding culture and passionate, loyal guests and employees. We recognize the inherent value this represents and look forward to helping MOD write the next chapter in its history.”

Elite Restaurant Group is known for acquiring and revitalizing distressed restaurant brands, including a couple of pizza chains. It purchased fast-casual pizza company Project Pie in 2019 and rebranded it as Patxi’s Pizza, a deep-dish chain that Elite acquired in 2018. Its portfolio also includes the burger chain Slater’s 50/50, the Mediterranean chain Daphne’s and cupcake chain Gigi’s Cupcakes.

Earlier this year, MOD Pizza closed 26 stores in 11 states and the District of Columbia. There was media speculation that the brand closed five locations in California due to that state’s minimum wage hike. But Scott told PMQ at the time that those stores “had underperformed for some time.” She added, “While rising wages in California and other states certainly were a factor in the underperformance of the five locations we closed, the timing of California’s minimum wage hike taking effect and our closings in the state was coincidental.”

Scott and Allie Svenson founded MOD Pizza in 2008, in part as a mission-driven concept that would help build a better world. The company has implemented programs to create jobs for people who face employment barriers, such as individuals with autism, intellectual and physical disabilities and the formerly incarcerated. It has also spearheaded initiatives to combat food insecurity in communities with MOD stores.

Meanwhile, it was the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chain in 2018 and 2019 and the third fastest-growing chain in 2020.

In PMQ’s January/February 2021 cover story, Scott Svenson said, “When we started MOD, we referred to it as a crazy social experiment that would combine the best of a for-profit business with the heart of a nonprofit, whereby the more successful we were, the better and bigger social impact we would make.”

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