Taylor Gourmet suddenly closed all its shops and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last fall, but the local chain isn’t totally dead yet. The hoagie purveyor will return under new ownership this summer.
Taylor Gourmet’s assets—including trademarks, customer email lists, social media and domain names, and recipes—were acquired in March by a company called Source Cuisine, headed by Steve Kalifa, who works in real estate development and health care consulting. Kalifa beat out bids from fast-casual chain Cosi and Taylor Gourmet founder Casey Patten in a bankruptcy auction for the brand. Kalifa spent around $260,000 for the assets and says he has raised around $2.5 million to begin resurrecting the business.
“Based on the research we did, it has a lot of followers. I think the concept didn’t fail. I believe the management failed, so we want to learn from that and take it to the next level,” says Kalifa, who previously owned franchises for KFC, Popeyes, and Pizza Hut in California.
The entrepreneur says he used to visit the Dupont location of Taylor Gourmet, just a block away from his office, almost every week. When he found out it had gone out of business, he saw an opportunity. Kalifa hired an accounting firm to look into the investment, and found “the numbers looked good.”
Kalifa is partnering with LA-based Margie Stufano and local chef Nishan Amenu to bring the business back to life. He’s currently negotiating with landlords of at least five previous Taylor Gourmet sites, which he hopes to reopen by August. Already, he’s taken over the management agreement with Taylor Gourmet at Reagan National airport, which remained open when all other locations closed.
Amenu, who Kalifa says “does a lot of ethnic food,” will oversee the culinary operations, but the menu will stay largely the same. “People love the food. People love the concept. We’re not going to change a lot,” Kalifa says. If anything, they’ll add some additional healthy options and salads. Kalifa says a couple people who previously worked in management for Taylor Gourmet reached out to him and will be coming on board.
Taylor Gourmet ceased operations in September after Connecticut-based private equity firm KarpReilly pulled out of the company. Taylor Gourmet’s official line was that its rapid expansion, which had recently reached Chicago, was too much, too fast. However, three people familiar with the company told Washingtonian sales suffered after owner Patten met with President Donald Trump at a small business roundtable at the White House in January 2017. “Our sales dropped 40 percent the next day,” says one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “And it persisted and never really got any better.” A company spokesperson said the Trump meeting “contributed” to a downturn in sales but that it wasn’t the cause of the chain’s demise.
Meanwhile, City Paper reports that Patten has plans to open a new spot called Grazie Grazie on April 30 in a former Taylor Gourmet location at the Wharf (85 District Square SW). The menu of sandwiches, cheesesteaks, and salads looks awfully similar to Taylor Gourmet—right down to the names of the offerings. Patten, who has not spoken publicly about Taylor Gourmet’s downfall, did not respond to a request for comment about the new venture.