Cara Operations, owner of Swiss Chalet, Harvey's & Milestones, plans IPO

One of Canada's largest owners of chain restaurants plans to go public and sell shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

One of Canada's largest owners of chain restaurants plans to go public and sell shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Cara Operations, which owns 837 restaurants across the country under 10 brands, filed a preliminary prospectus on Friday to list shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange soon.

Cara owns the following chains:

  • Swiss Chalet,
  • Kelsey's,
  • Casey's,
  • Milestones,
  • Bier Markt,
  • Montana's,
  • Harvey's,
  • East Side Mario's.

Because it is a preliminary prospectus, the company's filing doesn't contain financial information, such as how much Cara might be seeking to get from the sale. But the document does reveal that the chain's restaurants generated $1.7 billion in sales last year, big enough to make Cara the third-largest single restaurant owner in the country behind Tim Hortons and McDonalds.

System-wide sales also increased by 23.6 per cent last year, the prospectus says.

More than 70 per cent of Cara's restaurants are in Ontario, but the company has a presence in every province across the country. And the company also says it plans to pay a quarterly dividend.

According to the document, the IPO will happen some time in the summer of 2015, if everything goes well. The IPO plan marks a return to public markets for the company, which used to be publicly traded until 2004 when it was bought out by private equity firms.

Cara was founded by the Phelan family, who teamed in 2010 with investment firm Fairfax Financial Holdings. Under the terms of the IPO, both those two groups will maintain their control over the company because the public shares being offered won't have the same voting rights.


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