Despite Denver restaurateurs getting fried with permitting delays, Juan Padro isn’t slowing down.
The founder and CEO of The Culinary Creative Group — whose restaurants include Señor Bear, Mister Oso and Aviano Coffee — said the group raised roughly $7 million last month, the majority of which will go toward opening new restaurants in Denver and New Orleans.
This is the first major capital raise for the company, which has about 15 Denver-area locations across eight concepts currently open. Padro said Culinary Creative recently restructured into a C Corporation to provide its 647 employees better benefits and allow for separate divisions within the group, such as the culinary incubator where new concepts are developed.
“We had an opportunity during COVID to take a good hard look at our business, and we wanted to structure in a way that was true to who we are as a company, which is that we’re an equitable business,” Padro said.
While Padro has always pulled dedicated employees into higher positions, now 10 of the company is specifically set aside for employee ownership.
“That was really important to us,” Padro said. “By doing that, as we grow we create a lot of value for them.”
While individual Culinary Creative concepts have raised money from investors in the past, Padro said now the group can raise substantial capital for multiple projects.
“We’ve always raised (for) individual stores in the past,” Padro said. “From a business perspective, it makes more sense to invest just in Mister Oso … but that’s not our core concept and who we are.”
The funds will help open Red Top Rendezvous, Fox and The Hen and Kumoya in Denver this year, as well as Mister Oso, A5 Steakhouse and Bohemia in New Orleans. Next year, Padro expects to open three RiNo concepts and an Aviano, Mister Oso and Bar Dough at Denver International Airport.
Long term, Padro said Culinary Creative is looking to expand to places like Houston, Phoenix and Mexico. But for now, the group has a few Cherry Creek concepts planned as well as an Aviano opening in Boulder.
Despite challenges, Padro said the industry is hot right now. According to a February JLL survey of food and beverage brokers in 17 major markets, for every $100 Americans spent on groceries, $130 was spent on eating out. Since March 2021, dining-out expenses have exceeded grocery expenses, according to the survey.
“Restaurants are outpacing grocery stores for the first time ever … I think people should take a real close look at this industry. It’s cash-producing,” Padro said.
Culinary Creative brought in $32 million in sales and expects to hit $100 million by 2025. Padro said his goal is to hit roughly $19 million in store profit before raising more capital.
“I love what I’m doing and I love the impact on the community that we have as an organization,” Padro said. “We employ a lot of disadvantaged people – single moms, immigrants. To be able to affect that economic cycle is a big deal.”