Rhône Capital's agreement to purchase Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chão Inc. (Nasdaq: FOGO) shows growing consumer interest in restaurants that have ethnic flavors. Rhone is paying $560 million in cash to take the target private. The deal includes Thomas H. Lee Partners' 60 percent stake in Fogo de Chão.

Fogo de Chão, based in Dallas and founded in 1979, operates 47 restaurants across the U.S. and Brazil. The chain has an additional four restaurants through joint ventures in Mexico and the Middle East. Fogo de Chão is a full-service steakhouse, or churrascaria, where the meat is usually cooked barbecue style and then served at tables off skewers.

"We believe our firm’s global experience, relationships, and longstanding and expanding presence in Brazil is a natural complement to the company and will serve to facilitate Fogo’s domestic and international expansion plans," says Rhône managing director Eytan Tigay. Rhône is a New York-based private equity firm that has more than $5 billion under management. The firm focuses on the consumer, retail and food and beverage sectors.

Restaurants are scrambling to meet new demands from diners who want cuisine they believe is healthy, responsibly-sourced, budget-friendly and often ethnic or regional. Buyers are showing an appetite for ethnic restaurants, as consumers want food that reflects their diversity. Freeman Spogli purchased burrito chain Café Rio; Curry Up Now acquired Tava Kitchen; General Atlantic backed fast-casual operator Barteca Holdings; and L Catterton is buying Mexican Uncle Julio's.

J.P. Morgan Securities (NYSE: JPM) and Sullivan & Cromwell are advising Rhône. Jefferies, Davis Polk & Wardwll and Weil Gotshal & Manges are advising Fogo de Chão. Credit Suisse and Wells Fargo are providing financing.

Fogo de Chao
Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis joined SourceMedia in 2015 and serves as Assistant Managing Editor of Mergers & Acquisitions and writes The Buyside column about corporate dealmaking, and also covers the consumer sector.