The Washington Post

Matchbox, Ted’s Bulletin tap industry veterans to help prepare for national expansion

Ali Freter and Juan Flores work the lunch shift at Matchbox’s original Chinatown store. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)

The parent company of Matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin has brought on three new advisers to help the restaurants prepare for an eventual expansion beyond the Washington area.

Matchbox Food Group plans to announce Tuesday that its newly created board includes Outback Steakhouse founder Chris Sullivan; Bill Allen, former chief executive of OSI Restaurants, which oversees Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill; and Win Sheridan, co-founder of Richmond-based staffing firm Apex Systems.

All three are now minority investors in the company, although co-owner Ty Neal would not disclose how much money they had contributed.

“These are people who have been to the rodeo before,” Neal said. “As small mom-and-pop restaurateurs, that’s something we can learn from.”

Neal co-founded Matchbox, which specializes in pizza and bistro-style dishes, with Mark Neal and Andrew Kim in 2003. The company has grown steadily since then, with locations in Rockville, Capitol Hill, Logan Circle and Merrifield, as well as Palm Springs, Calif.

The Matchbox in Capitol Hill features a wooden booth that overlooks the bar and lower cafeteria. (Dominic Bracco II/For The Washington Post)

Each new restaurant costs about $3 million to open, Neal said. He declined to disclose profit or revenue figures.

“The Matchbox team has done an excellent job in ‘going slow to go fast,’ ” Sullivan, one of the company’s new investors, said in an e-mail. “We can help identify critical steps in the process of growing the brand.”

The local chain opened its 10th restaurant in November and plans to add at least one more — a Ted’s Bulletin in Merrifield’s Mosiac District — in coming months, Neal said, adding that he is in the process of finalizing a handful of other Matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin locations.

It could be 2016 by the time the company begins looking to expand outside of the Washington market.

“We feel like we’ve got to get better here before we earn the right to go out of town,” he said.

In the meantime, the local chain plans to fine-tune its menus and improve employee training practices, Neal said.

“How do you continue to help your employees as you grow? ” Neal said. “Nothing is more important than that.”

Capital Business is The Post’s publication focusing on the region’s business community. Find more Washington business stories at

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.



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