Before Ruby Tuesday’s, T.G.I.Friday’s, and Chili’s became household names in the casual dining scene – there was Bennigan’s. Established in 1976, by restaurant mogul and salad bar inventor, Norman Brinker, Bennigan’s picked up where older chains, such as Sizzler and Ho-Jo’s, had fallen off. The Atlanta-based franchisor ushered in a new era of mid-range dining that by the early 1980s, had restaurants popping up across the country and overseas.
For almost a decade, Bennigan’s reigned supreme amongst the many other “fern bar” chains that were quickly becoming popular mainstays for many Americans. But by the turn of the century, the brand had lost its way and in 2008 Bennigan’s parent company, S&A Restaurant Corp, shuttered almost all of its locations, leaving only 75 operating stores after declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Flash forward to 2015. The casual dining scene is more competitive than ever, some would even suggest in decline, with the longtime heavy weights clawing to stay on top. Bennigan’s, having survived bankruptcy, has rebounded with 150 franchises in operation across multiple countries. The brand’s renewed vigor can be almost entirely attributed to CEO Paul Mangiamele, who as of this week is the sole owner of Bennigan’s franchising rights and a number of other associated intellectual properties. Financed with his wife Gwen through their newly developed company, Legendary Restaurant Brands, LLC, Mr. Mangiamele has big plans for the dining chain. “Next year will be the 40th and 50th year of these brands,” respectively, Mangiamele said. “There’s still a very, very strong emotional connection to both brands.”
With the ever shifting restaurant market, it will be critical for Bennigan’s new owners to remain nimble and adjust with the times, unlike the company’s previous management, while retaining the brand’s legacy as one of the original casual dining venues. “We’re in the final stages of several significant agreements that will be game-changers for all our brands…” says Mr. Mangiamele, which could include expansion into the west coast market as well as additional ventures in the Middle East and Central America. “My committed team and I have worked tirelessly over the last four years, in collaboration with our incredible franchise partners and our loyal vendor partners, to return Bennigan’s to its rightful place as the leader of the casual dining segment.”
We look forward to seeing how Paul and his wife successfully tackle the challenges facing the Bennigan’s brand in the years to come. Additionally, should you be interested in or currently are managing a restaurant franchise and are in need of legal advice feel free to contact our office at anytime.