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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fresh casual restaurant and lounge Vapiano has received funding from three European banks for a total of 45 million Euro (U.S. $62.5 million) to fund the company's domestic expansion over the next several years. Vapiano also has acquired a strategic equity partner who will provide another 5 million Euro (U.S $7 million) for its expansion efforts.
 
Vapiano International operates nearly 45 restaurants in 14 countries and expects to open 44 to 55 new locations by the end of 2009. In the United States alone the company has closed deals for six stores in Southwest Florida, 10 in Dallas, two in San Jose, Calif., five in Houston and three stores in Boston, Detroit and Atlanta. New international locations are planned throughout Mexico, Australia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia and France.
 
Open international locations include 26 in Germany, two in Holland and Hungary and one each in Belgium, Estonia, London, The Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Poland, Turkey and the UAE.
 
In the U.S., Vapiano opened a head office in McLean, Va., and three company stores in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area last year. The fourth D.C. location will open in February of 2009.
 
New company hires
 
Vapiano also has hired a management team for operations in the United States.
 
The team will be led by new CEO, Bill Bessette, who began his career in the restaurant industry working with Outback Steakhouse. He served as director of operations for Legal Sea Food in 2004 before accepting the position of senior vice president of operations for Legal Sea Foods and its other concepts.
 
The rest of the team includes Phil Hill, who will serve as vice president of operations, Laurette Farmer and Marcos Rodriquez. Farmer previously worked with Potbelly Sandwich Works and Rodriquez spent four years as a chef at Legal Sea Food.
 
Same-store sales increase
 
Vapiano U.S. locations ended the year with a 20 percent increase in same store sales, company officials said.
 
"When we first opened in the U.S., many experts cautioned us to adapt Vapiano to U.S. customs and thought we wouldn't succeed without doing so," said Vapiano president Kent Hahne. "Here we are a year later with sales increases of 20 percent. ... I can only imagine what our increases would be in a stronger economy."

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