Starbird Deal Attracts Advice (and Capital) From Greg Dollarhyde
Americans consume no other animal protein like they do chicken. The USDA says we’ve added nearly 10 pounds to our annual diet on a per capita basis since 2012. Which must at least partly explain the nearly $5 million The Culinary Edge Ventures recently raised in two rounds of funding to launch chicken-centric Starbird in June, in Sunnyvale, Calif. The fast-casual restaurant offers fried and grilled chicken (and eggs) in sandwiches, burritos and salads. A second unit is scheduled to open this year in Foster City.
The other part has to do with who’s involved. The deal was led by Aaron Noveshen, a veteran restaurant consultant who with partners Steve Goldman and Steve Goldstein created Starbird. The trio are majority owners.
Yet Starbird attracted strategic help from another industry veteran, Greg Dollarhyde, who provided seed money and is now the second largest shareholder. Dollarhyde, former CEO most recently of Veggie Grill, said he advised on financial and real estate strategy. “Let’s just say I had nothing to do with the culinary side,” he joked during a call from Spain, where he was food-touring.
“Greg is a visionary and a very smart financial guy. He can see where things are going,” Noveshen said during a phone interview last week. Both men declined to reveal how many shares they control or how much the shares are worth.
Noveshen, who also owns the Bay Area’s Pacific Catch restaurants, allowed that he based Starbird’s valuation on the partners’ track record, their vision and a compelling story. “We had a restaurant that was going to open in a few days and a second one signed. It’s not a blind investment,” he said.
The investors classify Starbird as “super-premium fast food”—a subset of QSR that features ingredients similar to fashionable full-service urban eateries. Starbird bakes its own buns, serves free-trade coffee and sources non-GMO poultry and organic eggs from nearby farms.
Dollarhyde, who also provided capital in the Series B round, said he was compelled to invest because Starbird represents an emerging space.
"Fast casual has gotten a little pricey,” he claimed, citing a Bay Area fast-casual concept that charged $17 for a salad bowl with salmon topping. “That’s challenging for someone at lunch.”