Fox Restaurant Concepts — former Tucsonan Sam Fox’s Scottsdale-based boutique restaurant company — sold the Sauce pizza and fast-casual Italian brand to the founders of Ra Sushi, a chain that now numbers 25 restaurants in nine states.
The sale to Scott Kilpatrick and Todd Belfer, completed Jan. 1, includes nine of the 10 Sauce restaurants — three of them in Tucson. Sauce at Sky Harbor International Airport is not part of the deal, Fox said Wednesday, because it is tied to his deal to operate four concepts at the airport.
“It made sense to us to find a partner that could grow (Sauce) and take it to the next level,” Fox said.
“I think it’s an awesome brand. I’ve been a (customer) of Sauce in the Phoenix area for years,” Kilpatrick said. “I really love the brand. ... I think there’s a possibility of responsibly growing it.”
Kilpatrick said Pittsburgh’s PPNC Mezzanine Capital also is involved in the Sauce purchase. He would not disclose financial details.
Kilpatrick said he plans to expand Sauce first in Arizona before exploring options outside the state. Tucson could get one or two more restaurants, he said, and there’s room to add more locations in the Phoenix area.
“Eventually we’ll take a look at possibly trying to grow out of state. But I think for now we’ll focus on the areas that we’re already in and have the team in place to help facilitate that and get that done,” he said, noting that there are no plans to make any changes at the existing Sauce restaurants.
Kilpatrick and Belfer, both graduates of the University of Arizona, started Ra Sushi in 1997 in Scottsdale. After a few years, they had four locations in the Phoenix area and were being courted by national Japanese restaurant chain Benihana, which bought the company in 2002.
Kilpatrick stayed on and helped Benihana grow Ra to 25 locations, including a restaurant in Tucson’s La Encantada that opened in 2004.
Fox said he set Kilpatrick up with an office at the Fox Restaurant Concepts headquarters in Scottsdale and will offer support and assistance.
“We’re going to hand it off slowly and really going to assist them,” Fox said. “But they will get up to speed quickly and be able to move the thing along the way they feel it should be moved along.”
Fox Restaurant Concepts has 52 restaurants in 17 states, including Zinburger and North Italia, both of which have Tucson outposts.