Chief executive of SBE hospitality group, Sam Nazarian, has invested in Adam Fleischman’s Umami Burger chain. Nazarian is now a 50-50 partner in all of Fleischman’s restaurant endeavors, including Umami Burger; a modern downtown deli called Umamicatessan; and a new place called U-Ko that Fleischman describes as a “progressive fast-food place, with compostable containers,” and a DIY iPad ordering system where patrons can even swipe their own credit cards.
“We made a sizable commitment to his company,” Nazarian said. “As fast as he wants to execute expansion plans, we’ll be there, not just with equity but with back-of-the-house support.”
Fleischman has already scouted the location for U-Ko, which he plans to announce within the next week. His plans also include 12 new Umami Burger locations a year for the next three years in places SBE is also planning to expand into, including New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Houston. This coming year, however, Umami will concentrate on opening in Northern California (San Francisco will be first) as well as Orange and San Diego counties.
SBE was an attractive option to Fleischman because “they have a really good hospitality platform that I’m going to leverage…. Their systems, their people, their training — it’s incredible. They’re going to put all that infrastructure at our disposal.”
Since he has his own homegrown brand including a restaurant company, Nazarian doesn’t usually invest in other restaurant companies. However, he said that Fleischman “captured lightening in a bottle” with his concepts and wanted to lend his resources to help Fleischman expand.
Speaking of expanding, Nazarian has been busy buying up L.A. nightclubs, nearly doubling the amount he owns and making himself the most powerful operator of clubs on the West Coast.