Food & Beverage

Billionaire restaurant owner Fertitta moves into food delivery, says 'consumer tells us what to do'

The consumer tells us what to do: Tilman Fertitta
Key Points
  • Billionaire restaurant owner Tilman Fertitta gets into the food delivery business with the purchase of Waitr for $308 million.
  • Fertitta's company, Landcadia Holdings, will merge with Waitr under the new name Waitr Holdings and trade on the Nasdaq.
  • Fertitta says his company was attracted to Waitr because of the growth opportunities.
  • "You wanna be the Pac-Man and eat up all the small companies," he says.
The consumer tells us what to do: Tilman Fertitta

Billionaire restaurant owner Tilman Fertitta didn't think ordering in would be a lasting trend.

But the CEO and chairman of Landry's Restaurants told CNBC that he's been "converted."

"We're in a different world today," Fertitta said on "Power Lunch" Thursday. "I think people started realizing, 'Why am I not just ordering food from my favorite restaurant and having it delivered?'"

But he's not just ordering delivery. He's getting into the business as well.

On Wednesday, Landcadia Holdings, Fertitta's company, announced it was buying Waitr, a food delivery startup, for more than $308 million.

"The consumer tells us what to do," said Fertitta, who also owns the NBA's Houston Rockets. "The companies that don't do what the consumer tells them are the companies that aren't here again in a few years."

Waitr, which was founded in 2013, is a private company based in Louisiana. The company works with more than 5,000 restaurant partners in more than 200 cities in the southeastern United States. Consumers can order delivery or carryout from local restaurants by way of the Waitr app.

Tilman Fertitta
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

After the deal is complete, Landcadia Holdings will change its name to Waitr Holdings and start trading on the Nasdaq, making it one of only two food-delivery companies that are public. Fertitta, who is also the host of CNBC's "Billion Dollar Buyer" will serve as director of Waitr Holdings.

Fertitta said Waitr's presence in smaller markets was part of what made it so attractive. Last year, Waitr's sales were $125 million, he said. Sales this year are expected to be around $250 million and projected for about $500 million in 2019.

"The growth is there," Fertitta said.

And, in a fragmented industry with so many options for at-home food delivery — DoorDash, Postmates, UberEats, GrubHub, to name a few — Fertitta said the ability to break into smaller markets is key.

"We're going to try to do is apply the same business model that I did in acquiring restaurants," he said. "You gotta get out there. You wanna be the Pac-Man and eat up all the small companies and see what happens. We're going to be in the acquisition mode. We want to eat up a lot of the competition."