The owners of Roundabout Catering continue to build their growing regional food-service empire.
MaryBeth and Colin Smith in 2022 opened the 12,148-square-foot The Meadows Event Venue in Fernley and also acquired the former Campo location at the Truckee River in downtown Reno and rebranded the space as a new restaurant concept, Smith and River. Their most recent acquisition is Franco Baking Co., on Glendale Avenue in Sparks.
Known in part for its delicious sourdough bread, Franco Baking Co., has supplied locally baked breads, hamburger and hot dog buns, and sandwich and dinner rolls to restaurants and grocery stores throughout Reno-Sparks and the Lake Tahoe region for more than 50 years. The family-owned business was founded by Jack Gant, who moved to Sparks in 1973 and acquired Franco American Bakery with a few partners. Gant died in early 2022, and his son, Brian Gant, followed later that year. The loss of the two executives left a leadership void at the top of Franco Baking Co.
Colin Smith said Roundabout has been a customer of Franco Baking Co., for more than two decades. He always joked with Franco sales manager Tim Gant about who was ready to buy the other’s business, but those conversations suddenly turned serious last March after the elder Gant died.
The Smith’s told NNBW that Roundabout will retain all 48 Franco Baking Co., employees. The business services nearly 600 customer accounts, including all 134 Port of Subs restaurants in seven western states. Those 600 accounts and opportunity to insert new products into Franco’s current offerings were appealing aspects of the acquisition for Roundabout.
“When you look at Roundabout and Franco, we buy a ton of bread,” said Roundabout owner MaryBeth Smith, who handles much of Roundabout’s corporate duties and leads the company’s expansion efforts. “We have a bakery within Roundabout, we have lots of chefs and lots of backups.
“We have products that we can add to the (Franco) routes we think we will do very well after we establish ourselves. With our packaged food line and the way we were growing, there is great synergy for us to support and grow the company.”
Colin Smith, co-founder and head chef, said the two companies share many similar operational functions.
“If you look at what Roundabout does and what Franco does, they are identical,” he said. “It’s the same exact process. At Roundabout we buy many, many products, turn them into end products, package them and then sell them. The practices are the same – but Roundabout is actually much more difficult to operate because we have thousands of ingredients while Franco has hundreds.”
Roundabout also can bring logistical expertise to streamline and expand Franco’s product lines, he added.
“Although the businesses are a little different, they align well with what we are doing,” Smith said. “The Gant family was strictly a bakery — they baked bread, and they did it very well. We have a whole lot of world knowledge in catering and food service that we can bring to something like this. We are excited about what they have established and built over the last 50 years.”
Franco’s lengthy history and future legacy also were key aspects of the acquisition, Colin Smith noted, adding that Franco provides a stable business for the days when the two entrepreneurs eventually wind down their day-to-day duties with Roundabout.
“Roundabout Catering takes a lot of effort to operate,” he said, “and eventually I am going to stop cooking. This bakery is something that can be generational for our kids and grandkids. That was one of the big draws that added a lot of traction for us — we wanted to have a family company that had a lot of stability.”
Umpqua Bank helped provide acquisition financing, and the Smith’s also took advantage of a tax credit through Advantage Capital for investing in businesses in low-income areas.
Colin Smith said that Roundabout Catering is actually a larger company than Franco French by sales volume, and its strong balance sheet and personal funds were two factors that helped the Smith’s secure financing.
“It was an acquisition we felt we could make, and we did it without having to go out on the open market,” he said.
The Smith’s have a long history in the regional restaurant scene after opening Roundabout Bistro in Somersett in 2007. Additional business units currently operating under the Roundabout umbrella include catering, meal prep and party rental divisions, the Tesla Cafe at Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the Cafe at the Nevada Museum of Art, and Tannenbaum Events Center.
Additionally, the Smiths operate two industrial kitchens along with a fleet of delivery trucks. The Smiths also operated two now-shuttered restaurant concepts in Reno: Roundabout Bistro, which closed in 2011, and Roundabout Grill at Whitney Peak Hotel, which closed in 2020.
Franco Baking Co., meanwhile, operates from a 13,700 square feet bakery, with a separate 2,800-square-foot annex. Franco management will transition to the Roundabout team. Tim Gant will stay on as an employee during a transitional period while Roundabout ramps up and eventually will move into a consulting role, the Smiths said.
Gant also will play a role in any potential expansion of the Franco brand, added Colin Smith, who already has begun overseeing the company’s bakery operations.
“Tim is going to be a key member of our team to build capacity. It may be a secondary dough line, or it may be a secondary warehouse — we don’t know where it’s going. We are keeping him on as a mentor with expertise.”
“Tim is very important as we transition,” MaryBeth Smith said. “He is a wealth of information and a great friend.”
Grant McBride, the Smiths’ son-in-law and a partner in the operation, will oversee Franco’s route and sales operations. Colin Smith is still defining additional job descriptions and duties, with finance to be combined into Roundabout’s accounting system.
MaryBeth Smith said blending financial oversight is one of many areas where Roundabout can bring additional expertise to bear.
“We already see economies of scale where we can make changes and be more efficient, which will put us in a more secure financial position,” she said. “Between the companies, with us overseeing them, we will also be able to provide backup, whether it’s driving routes or being the nighttime manager. We have that infrastructure.”
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