|Headquarters||Dallas, Texas, U.S.|
|Owner(s)||Bennigan's Franchising Company, LLC|
|Parent||Atalaya Capital Management|
Bennigan's is an Irish pub-themed casual dining restaurant chain with locations throughout the United States, and in 14 countries and 15 territories outside the continental U.S. The operating company, Bennigan's Franchising Company, LLC, is headquartered in Dallas, Texas.
In July 2008, all of Bennigan's 150 corporate locations across the US were closed due to parent company Metromedia Restaurant Group of Plano, Texas filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection; the firm's 138 franchisee-owned remained open, but many closed in the months and years after the bankruptcy filing.
The brand was restructured in 2010 as a result of ownership changes. As of December 2012, there are 31 Bennigan's locations in 11 states.
Bennigan's was established in 1976 in Atlanta, Georgia, as part of the Pillsbury Corporation. The concept was the brainchild of company vice president and Steak and Ale founder Norman E. Brinker. By the early 1980s Bennigan's had become one of the best known of the new style mid-range casual dining franchised "fern bar" eating and drinking establishments in the United States. In 1983, Brinker led an exodus of senior management from the S&A and Bennigan's division, purchasing a small regional restaurant concept that focused on gourmet hamburgers, Chili's. Bennigan's continued to grow across the United States, as well as opening locations in fourteen countries.
When Pillsbury was acquired by Grand Metropolitan in 1989 (Grand Met later merged with Guinness in 1997 to become Diageo), the company was spun off. As a major liquor distributor selling such brands as Bombay gin, J&B and other spirits, Grand Metropolitan was bound by "Tied house" laws that prohibited liquor distributors from owning liquor retailers. S&A management, underwritten by Metromedia, led the leveraged buyout of S&A in 1991.
Failure of Bennigan's executives to update and evolve the restaurant concept over twenty years led to significant sales and customer visit declines. Bennigan's consistently lagged behind its contemporaries, Chili's and T.G.I. Friday's. John Owens, a Morningstar analyst, described Bennigan's as one of the "weakest of the major players." Rapid expansion among many chains led to a lack of distinction among customers and a drive to cut prices. Bob Goldin, an executive vice president of the restaurant industry consulting group Technomic, said that many chains like Bennigan's featured "the same kind of menu, décor, appeal." This translated into a lack of brand loyalty.
In May of 2006 Bennigans closed most of its New York and New England locations.
On July 29, 2008, the web site of WBBM news radio (Chicago) reported that the Bennigan's chain had closed due to bankruptcy. The website mentions calls to several area Bennigan's locations in which managers and employees told reporters that the closings were company-wide, having been informed by their own supervisors early that morning. There were reports of shutdowns in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Kansas, Virginia and New Mexico. Phone calls went out for many employees that morning notifying them of their job loss, but others reported showing up to work to find a "Closed" sign hanging on the door. Later that day, sister station WBBM-TV reported on its web site that only company-owned stores were closing, and that franchised locations remain open. Franchisees in states including Michigan announced their plans to keep the stores open in their territories.
Other reports indicated that the shutdown was only within the United States, allowing international locations to remain open. In South Korea, for instance, over 30 locations were still operating as usual. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that both Bennigan's and Steak and Ale had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and shut down. According to the news report, they were not expected to reopen. Many formerly corporate-owned stores were placed up for auction.
In October 2008, Atalaya Capital Management announced that it would buy the assets of both the Bennigan's and Steak and Ale brands. The assets include the Bennigan's Franchising Co., which owned the rights to franchise the Bennigan's brand and was instrumental in keeping franchise-owned restaurants operating during the bankruptcy period. In a statement by the firm, it was stated that the company planned to reposition the brand by re-establishing its place in the high-margin bar segment and by focusing on sandwiches and appetizers. It also said the company planned to reopen 50 or 60 formerly company-owned Bennigan's locations by finding new or existing franchisees to operate the restaurants.
In May 2011 new management of the firm stated that they wanted to return the brand to its roots but also give Bennigan’s new life in the 21st century. In an interview of CEO Paul Mangiamele, he stated that the company's strategy to turn the brand around was multi-pronged. The company planned to introduce a new logo, store prototype, financial and franchise models, an updated menu, improved marketing, adding a catering operation and a new attitude.
Currently, Bennigan's operates 31 domestic and 44 international locations.
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- "Investment firm buys Bennigan's name and franchise rights". 2008-10-23.
- Daley, Jason. "How Ground Round, Sizzler and Bennigan's Bounced Back from Bankruptcy". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- Schaeffer, Julie. "Rebuilding a Brand After Bankruptcy". Profile Magazine. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- Official website
- Announcement of Atalaya Capital's acquisition of the Bennigan's brand