Mario Bauer

Group led by ex-chairman Bauer acquires restaurant business

Mario C. Bauer has drummed up an investor group to save Vapiano.

In a joint effort with international partners and investors, Mario C. Bauer wants to return the struggling brand Vapiano to a successful course. Their bid for the listed company, which had to go into insolvency at the end of March, was recently accepted.

Bauer, Vapiano’s former chairman, contributed to the worldwide success story of the “German Italian” for more than a decade. He wants the revive the company’s former motto ‘All we do, we do with love’. “We will bring Vapiano back to its values as well as its emotional and fair corporate culture.”

As brand ambassador and entrepreneur, Mario C. Bauer has been working in the international restaurant business for around 20 years. His worldwide network comprises the industry’s key players, with whom he also maintains close friendships. When he asked his friends to support his efforts to save Vapiano, the industry experts agreed without hesitation. “These are renowned founders and executive managers who shaped the European foodservice scene throughout the past decades,” says Bauer.

Well known names involved

For Vapiano’s new start, Bauer is accompanied by renowned representatives of the European restaurant industry: The Van der Falk family from the Netherlands is one of the biggest hospitality dynasties and was one of Vapiano’s first international franchise partners. Henry McGovern, founder and Chief Emotional Officer for 26 years at AmRest, Europe’s biggest multi-concept restaurant operator. Sinclair Beecham, founder of Pret A Manger, who revolutionized the British fast casual and sandwich scene. Gregor Gerlach, one of Vapiano’s founders, is also on board.

The new owners will bundle their industry knowledge in the newly founded LOVE & Food Restaurant Holding. “A dream team of committed investors who are interested in long-term success, who have the financial means, the know-how, the networks, and the motivation to lead Vapiano into the future,” summarized Bauer.

Home market Germany

Its home market Germany is particularly important for Vapiano’s new start. This is why the new owners entered a partnership with the family entrepreneur Falk Johne from Leipzig and real estate developer Bernd Ehret (Skyland Group) as its new master-licensees for Germany. Together, they will enter a joint venture with LOVE & Food Restaurant Holding. “We are looking forward to bringing Vapiano back to its operative strength with our partners. We are not focusing on growth percentages but happy guests in all of our future endeavors. Being close to the people, no matter on which side of the counter, that will be the guiding principle of this new company. Vapiano first! ,” says Falk Johne. The joint venture will operate approximately 20 of the German Vapiano restaurants on its own and become a licenser for the brand’s German licensees. It is also planned to hand over 15 further locations to successful franchise partners in their respective regions. After all, partnership and close collaboration with existing German franchisees is vitally important for the investors.

Focusing on local characteristics

„Vapiano’s reconstruction in Germany is big task. Therefore, we believe it makes sense to focus on the support of entrepreneurs who actually know the characteristics of this market, the Vapiano brand, and our guests’ mindset very well,” says Bauer. “The franchisees have been shaping Vapiano since its early days. They are the right partners for the future.”

For the operative management of the holding, Bauer wants to bring together a team of renowned experts from his vast network, who are just as committed to the Vapiano brand as the new owners. “I am very glad to have the opportunity, as CEO, to build a team that is based strong values and a strong culture, while writing this new chapter for Vapiano with our guests and our teams. We hope that the employees, who have been essential for the company’s success over the past decades, return and will remain a vital part of the Vapiano family.”

Bid accepted for France and Luxembourg

In the past week, the investor group already won the country markets France and Luxembourg, where it will take over Vapiano SE’s shares of 29 restaurants and plans to open six more restaurants by the end of this year. The investors also want to continue working with the existing partners and franchisees in the remaining international markets. The investors believe in the power of their local partners and their ability to utilize the brand’s strength to its full extent. Bauer, a native Viennese, expressly appreciates the already agreed sale of Vapiano Austria with its twelve restaurants to the catering company DoN.

The new owner will close down the company headquarters in Cologne, which was opened in 2017. They want to manage the individual country markets decentrally in the future instead. We want to bring together the best and most competent heads of the respective country at the national offices and maintain close relationships with the restaurants,” says Bauer. “We need experienced and effective teams that support our German and international franchisees.”

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