Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chain owned by former Panther's firm converting uptown restaurant

Wild Wing Cafe, the chain acquired by former Carolina Panther Muhsin Muhammad's private-equity firm this year, is converting its uptown restaurant to a corporate-owned and managed operation, it announced today.

Charlotte-based Axum Capital Partners said the restaurant at the EpiCentre, formerly owned by a franchisee, will undergo remodeling and reopen Aug. 23. It's part of Wild Wing's strategy to revitalize restaurants in key locations across the country, said the firm, which acquired a controlling stake in the Mount Pleasant, S.C., chain in January.

"We're totally bullish on the Charlotte market," said Wild Wing chief executive William Prather, who stepped into the chain's top role in March. "The EpiCentre location has especially strong potential because of the uptown sports activities and its proximity to the light rail line."

Among the planned changes: Moving the restaurant's stage to better highlight live local and national bands, and ramping up the emphasis on sports, said Muhammad, who played pro football for 14 seasons before making the leap into private equity.

Wild Wing, which generated $100 million in sales last year, has 34 restaurants across the Southeast, including locations in southwest Charlotte and University City.

Axum acquired the company in its first deal. The firm, which targets lower middle-market businesses in the food and beverage and educational services sectors, is evaluating other deals, its partners have said. Its target fund size is $100 million to $150 million, with about five to seven companies in its portfolio.

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