Photo courtesy of Slapfish
Gruel confirmed Tuesday that Andrew Gruel, who founded Slapfish in 2011 as a food truck and developed the fast food seafood concept to more than 20 locations, has acquired a majority stake in the brand from Mac Haik Enterprises.
Mac Haik, who is also an investor in First Watch, ChopShop, and Bellagreen, first invested in Huntington Beach, California-based Slapfish in 2019. A former professional soccer player, Haik owns car dealerships, an outside media company, and other commercial real estate businesses.
Gruel did not disclose details of the acquisition, which took place last month.
Gruel, who has nearly 150,000 followers on Twitter, announced the Deal on the platform Sundaysaying his plan has always been to exit Slapfish after a decade to create new restaurant brands.
“We want to put a lot of focus on doing that again,” Groel said. “Take what we’ve learned through the process and work through some alternative ideas.”
These alternative ideas include several new or recently dormant concepts that Gruel would like to expand upon.
Among them is a new seafood concept, called Calico Fish House, which is currently scheduled to open in September on the Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, California. He said it would have a full bar and servers, as well as a counter service order.
Another brand that Gruel is planning to expand into is Big Parm. “It’s typical New Jersey, slice-shaped pizza,” he said. The restaurant, which is currently located in one location in Tustin, California, ferments its dough for 48 hours and soaks the sauce in Parmesan husks. Another site is scheduled to open in the next six months, he said.
Gruel is also looking to revive his chicken concept, Two Birds, and his vegan restaurant, Butter Leaf, both of which have been located in a food court.
Gruel has plans for a multi-unit property that will be used to incubate new concepts.
“It’s a bit surreal,” he said of getting out of Slapfish. “It has been our life for over 10 years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The kids have grown up in this field.”
He said the Calico Fish House acreage deal arose 24 hours after the Slabfish deal closed.
“We were immediately able to translate our emptiness into activity,” Groell said. “It’s so exciting. It’s definitely bittersweet.”
Slapfish sales grew 26.8% year-over-year in 2021, to $27.9 million, according to data from sister restaurant Business Technomic.
Gruel said his relationship with Mac Haik Enterprises is “fantastic.”
“They will take it in a great direction,” he said. “We feel confident about the legacy.”
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