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Cava Fundamental Analysis January 2024

Cava Fundamental Analysis


Cava Group, Inc. was founded in 2006 and is based in Washington, District of Columbia.

CAVA Group, Inc. owns and operates a chain of Mediterranean restaurants. The company offers salads, dips, spreads, toppings, and dressings. It sells its products through whole food markets and grocery stores.

The company also provides online food ordering services.

CAVA is the category-defining Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant brand, bringing together healthful food and bold, satisfying flavors at scale. CAVA serves guests across gender lines, age groups, and income levels and benefits from generational tailwinds created by consumer demand for healthy living and a demographic shift towards greater ethnic diversity.

There are 317 Cava locations in the United States as of January 2024.





A winning operational model: Cava’s approach to business is robustly positioned for success. The fast-casual chain specializes in serving quick, convenient, and healthy Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, all tailored to customer preferences. Its relatively low menu prices make it particularly appealing in today’s cost-aware consumer market, thereby expanding its reach to a broader audience. This combination of factors enhances Cava’s prospects for success as it pursues a strategy of national expansion.

Crucially, Cava’s business model also demonstrates strong financial performance at the store level. On average, each of its locations generates over $2 million in annual revenue and boasts restaurant-level profit margins exceeding 20%. This impressive economic performance per unit further underscores the strength of Cava’s operational model.

Zoe´s Kitchen Acquisition: In 2018, as part of its growth strategy, Cava took a significant step by purchasing its competitor, Zoe’s Kitchen, for about $300 million. This acquisition transformed the merged entity into a more formidable player in the restaurant sector, particularly establishing it as a leader in Mediterranean cuisine. The merger also provided Cava with an efficient way to expand its presence geographically.

Following the acquisition, Cava has been strategically converting over 200 existing Zoe’s Kitchen locations into Cava restaurants. This approach has proven to be cost-effective, with the conversion costs being roughly half of what it would take to open new outlets. Additionally, Cava has applied its expertise in culinary innovation and technology to enhance sales performance at these converted Zoe’s locations.

Expert management: The merger with Zoe’s Kitchen not only expanded Cava’s market presence but also significantly strengthened its executive team. As a result of the deal, Ron Shaich, the founder and former CEO of Panera Bread, took on the role of chairman of Cava’s board of directors.

Shaich is highly regarded in the restaurant industry and brings a rich array of experience to Cava’s leadership. He is known for his foresight in anticipating consumer trends, notably positioning Panera as a healthier alternative to its competitors by eliminating artificial ingredients from its menu. Shaich was also instrumental in advancing Panera’s digital transformation, introducing innovations like mobile ordering and self-service kiosks.

Crucially, Shaich has a proven track record in guiding regional brands through successful national expansions, as seen with Panera. His expertise in this area will be invaluable as he advises Cava’s CEO, Brett Schulman, in the brand’s ongoing expansion efforts.

A path to Profitability and Growth: While Cava’s individual restaurants are performing well in terms of investment returns, the company as a whole has not yet achieved profitability. In the first quarter of 2023, Cava reported a net loss of $2.1 million, largely attributed to the expenses associated with opening new outlets and transforming Zoe’s Kitchen locations into Cava restaurants. However, most of these conversions are now complete, and it’s anticipated that Cava will start reaping the benefits of scale efficiencies as it continues to increase its number of stores in the upcoming years.

Signs of these positive developments are already emerging. In the first quarter, Cava reported $16.7 million in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), a significant improvement from a $1.6 million loss in the same period of the previous year.

Best of all, Cava is still early in its expansion cycle, with only 290 locations as of January 2024. Management sees an opportunity to grow that figure to more than 1,000 stores in the U.S. by 2032. 

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