Protein Bar has plans for the West

SHARE Protein Bar has plans for the West

Protein Bar is moving west. The Chicago-based healthy fast-food chain announced plans to open three Denver-area locations — two in the city and one in neighboring Boulder — in the next few months.

“We’re super pumped, we’ll hopefully have them, all three of them open just after the new year,” says Protein Bar founder and owner Matt Matros. “And we’re actively and aggressively looking for more sites out here.” Matros says he hopes to have as many as five or six locations in that area open by the end of 2014.

The chain has been expanding, as Matros shared with Grid in July, with nine Chicago area locations and a Schaumburg one on the way, and another three open in Washington, with two more in the works. According to a report by Crain’s Chicago Business, Protein Bar is also in acquisition talks with private equity firm Catterton Partners, for an investment of $22 million. Some of the money would be used to fund further expansion.

Moving into a new market is challenging, Matros admits, but says the company’s experience in D.C. bodes well for Denver.

“We found that when we went to D.C., the Washingtonians really took to our concept,” he says. But Matros isn’t naïve when it comes to the area’s fierce fast-casual competition. Noodles and Co. and Chipotle Mexican Grill both call the area home.

“Denver is one of the most competitive fast-casual markets, I would say in the country,” Matros says. Still, Matros is confident that Denver will be a great market for Protein Bar, saying that, “we think Denver as an overall market could support anywhere from 15 to 20 stores.”

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