Don Pablo's

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Don Pablo's
Industry Restaurants
Founded 1985; 32 years ago (1985) in Lubbock, Texas
Headquarters San Antonio, Texas
Number of locations
12 (October 2016)[1]
Area served
United States
Products Burritos, Tacos, Quesadillas, Fajitas, Enchiladas
Owner Food Management Partners

Don Pablo’s is a chain of Tex-Mex restaurants founded in Lubbock, Texas, in 1985.[2] The menu features Tex-Mex items, made-from-scratch salsa, tortillas and sauces, and a range of other Mexican specialties. At one time, this chain had as many as 120 locations throughout the United States and was the second largest full-service Mexican restaurant chain within the United States during the late 1990s, second only to Chi-Chi's.[3] The chain had 34 restaurants in 14 states when it was acquired in 2014 by Food Management Partners.[4] By the end 2016, the chain was reduced to 12 restaurants in 9 states.


This chain of Tex-Mex restaurants was started by Texas-based DF&R Restaurants Inc. in 1985.[5] After a period of rapid growth throughout the state of Texas, Don Pablo's began to build new locations in the Midwest.[6] By 1995, DF&R had 51 Don Pablo's locations.

This successful growth was noticed by Madison, Georgia-based Apple South, which bought DF&R in 1995.[7] At the time of the purchase, Apple South was one of the largest franchise holders in the Applebee's restaurant system with 170 Applebee's restaurants, along with operating restaurants from other franchise chains, with most of the properties located in the South and Midwest.[8] Two years later, Apple South decide to divest all of its 264 Applebee's franchises (in a franchise system that had 960 units), along with its other franchise properties, to focus its efforts on the 120-unit Don Pablo's and the other company-owned chains.[9][10] Shortly after the Applebee's restaurant divesture, Apple South changed its name to Avado Brands to emphasise the change of business.[11][12]

Things did not go as well as Avado had originally planned, and it filed for bankruptcy in 2004.[13][14] At that time, it had 106 Don Pablo's. Avado exited bankruptcy a year later with 96 Don Pablo's in operation.[15] After spending two years trying to revitalize the brand,[16] Avado filed for bankruptcy for the second time in September 2007[17] and subsequently closed or sold about half of its 90 locations.[18][19]

In February 2008, 41 Don Pablo's locations were acquired by Rita Restaurant Corporation of Madison, Georgia, a fully owned subsidiary of DDJ Capital Management of Waltham, Massachusetts.[20][21] Rita tried to revitalize the brand by closing under-performing locations and selling franchises. A franchise was sold to a Florida-based operator who re-opened a Don Pablo's in Sarasota, Florida, in 2012.[22][23][24] The Sarasota location was the sole remaining franchise[23] until it was final closed in 2015.[25]

In 2014, the 34-unit chain was acquired by San Antonio-based Food Management Partners (FMP).[4] FMP is also a franchise operator of Buffalo Wild Wings and several Italian restaurant chains.[26] While FMP owned the company, locations were closed in February 2014 at Atlanta, Georgia;[27] in August 2014 at Hobart, Indiana;[28][29] in February 2015 at Canton, Ohio;[30][31] in April 2015 at Flint, Michigan;[32] in February 2016 at Greenville, South Carolina[33] and Maple Grove, Minnesota;[34] in August 2016 at Richfield, Minnesota[35] and Newport, Kentucky;[36] and in September 2016 at Beavercreek, Ohio[37] and Owings Mills, Maryland.[38]

On October 4, 2016, Rita Restaurant Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after nearly cutting the number of Don Pablo's locations in half.[39] At the time of the bankruptcy announcement, all four Indianapolis-area locations[40] along with locations in Battle Creek, Michigan[41] and Toledo, Ohio[42] were immediately closed with little advance warning.


  1. ^ Smith, Aaron (October 4, 2016). "Don Pablo's Tex-Mex chain files for bankruptcy protection". KITV. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. 
  2. ^ "Don Pablo's Wins 'Best Mexican Restaurant' in Restaurants & Institutions' 'Choice in Chains' Awards". Business Wire (Press release). August 8, 2006. 
  3. ^ Gibson, Richard (September 23, 1998). "Applebee's Hopes to Determine Direction For Ailing Rio Bravo Chain by Year End". Wall Street Journal (Eastern ed.). p. B11C. (Subscription required (help)). [Lawrence M. Folk] resigned in August from Apple South Inc., where he had been president of its Don Pablo's Mexican restaurant division. Until recently, Apple South was the largest franchisee of Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar restaurants, but decided to shed its Applebee's outlets to concentrate on what it considered better growth opportunities, among them Don Pablo's. Don Pablo's now has 117 units, second only to closely held Family Restaurants Inc.' Chi-Chi's chain in the Mexican-style restaurant sector.  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  4. ^ a b "Don Pablo's acquired by Food Management Partners: Multi-concept operator buys 34-unit Tex-Mex casual-dining chain". Nation's Restaurant News. January 31, 2014. (Subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ Ruggles, Ron (December 6, 1993). "DF&R gears to expand Don Pablo's concept. (DF&R Restaurants Inc., Don Pablo's Tex-Mex)". Nation's Restaurant News – via Highbeam Research. (Subscription required (help)).  Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  6. ^ "Pay-as-you-go Policy Helps Put Restaurant Operator In Top Tier For Growth". Chicago Tribune. February 21, 1994. 
  7. ^ "Apple South Agrees To Buy D.F. & R. Restaurants". New York Times. August 16, 1995. 
  8. ^ "Apple South, Inc. Signs Merger Agreement With DF&R Restaurants, Inc.". Business Wire (Press release). August 15, 1995. 
  9. ^ "Apple South to Sell 264 Restaurants". New York Times. December 24, 1997. 
  10. ^ "Apple South says it will sell Applebee's restaurants". Associated Press. December 23, 1997. 
  11. ^ "Apple South is renamed Avado". Rome News-Tribune. October 18, 1998. 
  12. ^ "Avado Brands Inc.". The Motley Fool. October 30, 1998. 
  13. ^ "Avado Brands Receives Court Approval for 'First-Day' Motions". PR Newswire (Press release). February 6, 2004. 
  14. ^ "After struggling for years, Avado Brands Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.". The Food Institute Report. February 9, 2004 – via Highbeam Research. (Subscription required (help)). 
  15. ^ "Avado Brands now out of bankruptcy". Atlanta Business Journal. May 19, 2005. 
  16. ^ Bertagnoli, Lisa (December 1, 2006). "Avado Brands on the Fast Track: Rick Barbrick has taken Avado Brands from bankruptcy to growth mode in less than two years.". Chain Leader. Archived from the original on 2009-06-11. 
  17. ^ "Avado Brands files for Ch. 11 bankruptcy". Nation's Restaurant News. September 6, 2007. (Subscription required (help)). 
  18. ^ Tong, Vinnee (February 6, 2008). "Service sector shrinks, raising recession fears: Don Pablo's restaurant chain, for another, has been busily shrinking.". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. p. C1. (Subscription required (help)). 
  19. ^ Larson, Cindy (February 29, 2008). "Last taco served at Don Pablo's". Fort Wayne News Sentinel. 
  20. ^ "Avado Brands divests Don Pablo's and Hops". Atlanta Business Journal. February 29, 2008. 
  21. ^ Palank, Jacqueline (November 28, 2007). "Avado Brands sells several restaurants: Bankruptcy lender is primary buyer of Don Pablo's, Hops". Columbus Dispatch. 
  22. ^ "Don Pablo's owner laments what could have been". Business Observer. May 23, 2012. 
  23. ^ a b Griffin, Justine (June 10, 2013). "Don Pablo's trying to make a comeback". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 
  24. ^ Silva, Tricia Lynn (January 31, 2014). "Food Management Partners buys Lubbock-based Tex-Mex chain". San Antonio Business Journal. 
  25. ^ Tatangelo, Wade (July 16, 2015). "Restaurant News: Don Pablo's closed". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 
  26. ^ "Don Pablo's Returns to Texas Roots: Texas-born restaurant chain known for its "Big Tex, Bold Mex" flavors and attitude returns to its Texas roots with acquisition by Food Management Partners.". PRWeb (Press release). January 31, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Troubled Center Lands Two Exciting New Tenants". Tomorrow's News Today Atlanta. February 28, 2014. 
  28. ^ Pete, Joseph S. (September 11, 2014). "Gaucho's Brazilian Steakhouse to return". Times of Northwest Indiana. 
  29. ^ Keagle, Lauri (September 11, 2014). "Don Pablo's". Times of Northwest Indiana. 
  30. ^ Pritchard, Edd (April 26, 2015). "Business Roundup: Don Pablo's is gone, but brewhouse is coming". Canton Repository. 
  31. ^ Pyrka, John (March 1, 2015). "Photos of Don Pablo's Restaurants". Facebook. Archived from the original on 2015-06-20. 
  32. ^ "Don Pablos in Flint Township permanently closed". WJRT-TV. April 10, 2015. 
  33. ^ Callum-Penso, Lillia (February 17, 2016). "Don Pablo's closes its doors". Greenville News. 
  34. ^ Erlien, Wendy (February 23, 2016). "Don Pablo's Mexican Kitchen Closes in Maple Grove". Maple Grove Voice. 
  35. ^ Ewoldt, John (August 29, 2016). "Don Pablo's closes its Richfield location; only one left in Twin Cities". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 
  36. ^ Wartman, Scott (August 24, 2016). "Don Pablo's in Newport shut down". Cincinnati Enquirer. 
  37. ^ Driscoll, Kara (September 26, 2016). "Don Pablo's closes Beavercreek location". Dayton Daily News. 
  38. ^ Barker, Jeff (September 25, 2016). "Owings Mills Mall closes the doors on its interior". Baltimore Sun. 
  39. ^ Fitzgerald, Patrick (October 4, 2016). "Owner of Don Pablo's Restaurants Files for Bankruptcy". The Wall Street Journal. (Subscription required (help)). 
  40. ^ "Tex-Mex chain Don Pablo's files bankruptcy, closes 4 area locations". Indianapolis Business Journal. October 5, 2016. 
  41. ^ Davis, Dillon (October 3, 2016). "Don Pablo's closes with no warning in Battle Creek". Detroit Free Press. 
  42. ^ Montgomery, Alexandra (October 3, 2016). "Toledo-area Don Pablo's apparently shuts down, doesn't tell workers". WTOL-TV. 

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