Server Leonardo Zeledon adds toppings to a pizza before serving it at the Matchbox restaurant in Chinatown, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7, 2012. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)

Washington’s Matchbox chain of casual restaurants is seeking $11 million from public investors to fund a national expansion to 48 locations by 2020.

The Matchbox Food Group has raised $9 million so far and is launching a Web site for qualified investors starting May 29 to reach its goal of $20 million.

“We are going national,” said Matchbox chief financial officer Harvey Metro. “We are going with a big-boy strategy.”

Qualified investors must put a minimum of $50,000 into the new ownership group.

Under U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules, a qualified investor must have at least $200,000 in income and a net worth of more than $1 million.

The popular local chain was launched in 2003 by four partners. It has 12 stores; 11 are in the Washington region and one in Palm Springs, Calif.

That is about to change. Eight additional stores planned by 2016, including ones in Loudoun County, Potomac Mills and Pentagon City in Virginia, and more in Florida and Texas.

The goal is 48 stores by 2020, Metro said.

And then?

“We have four options,” Metro said. “We do an initial public offering, we sell to a strategic national restaurant company, we sell a portion to private equity, or we love what we are doing and we keep it.”

There are currently 80 investors among separate partnerships which own the existing individual restaurants.

The current investors have been given the option of keeping their quarterly distributions, which they have been receiving for several years. Or they can convert their interest into the new shares available to the public.

Matchbox, which started on H Street in Chinatown in 2003, had four co-founders: brothers Ty and Mark Neal, Drew Kim and Perry Smith. The Neal brothers and Kim are still with the company.

Each Matchbox restaurant typically costs more than $4 million to open, depending on the size. Going forward, Matchbox plans to fund new restaurants through bank debt, contributions from developers eager to have them in their buildings and its new partners’ investments.

Offering pizzas, sandwiches and entrees, Matchbox’s business model occupies the middle of the market, somewhere between fast-food places such as Five Guys and fine-dining powerhouses such as Palm and the Prime Rib.