initial public offerings (IPOs) trading on American exchanges

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chefs' Warehouse shares open 13% on first trading day

Based in Ridgefield, CT
Primary Industry: Specialty Foods Distributors
2010 Sales: $330.1 mil
2010 Employees: 543
Proposed Ticker: CHEF
Offering Amount: $100.0 mil
Lead Underwriter: Jefferies & Company, Inc.

The company's stock opened at $17 a share on the Nasdaq, up 13% from its initial public offering price of $15. A total of 8 million shares were sold at the midpoint of its expected $14 to $16 range. It was recently at $16.98, up 13%.

Headquartered in Connecticut, The Chefs' Warehouse distributes a range of specialty food products from truffles to caviar, and claims to be the largest such firm in the New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles metro markets as measured by net sales.

It carries more than 11,500 items, and supplements the gourmet fare with basics such as cooking oils, milk and flour so that chefs can use the company as a primary food distributor.

The company, which was formed in 1985, has a customer base of more than 7,000 restaurants, country clubs, hotels, culinary schools and specialty food stores. According to its prospectus, chefs often are introduced to the company while attending a top culinary school, such as The Culinary Institute of America and The French Culinary Institute, both of which are customers.

The majority of its sales force, at about 125 workers, has formal culinary training, culinary degrees or prior experience working at a restaurant, a factor the company says helps it connect with its customers.

The Chefs' Warehouse plans to increase sales with existing customers by adding to its product selection, and to add new customers through sales efforts or acquisitions. In June, the company paid $9 million to purchase the inventory and some intangible assets of Harry Wils & Co., a specialty food distributor headquartered in the New York metropolitan area.

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