Four Smart Restaurant Operators Who Didn't Sell Cheap

Last Updated May 12, 2010 9:45 AM EDT

The fire sale is over in the restaurant sector, as sharp operators who are up for sale stop freaking out about the economic downturn and begin holding out for better offers. A look at who's pocketing more money in their sale deal by staying calm and waiting for a better offer:
  • The latest cool cucumber is Rubio's Restaurants (RUBO), owner of 195-unit Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill. Rubio's sold to Mill Road Capital for $91 million this week, after turning down two lower offers. Levine Leichtman Capital Partners had first offered Rubio's $80 million in October, then $85 million in January.
  • CKE Restaurants (CKR) got roughly $80 million more for its Carl's Jr. and Hardee's fast-food chains by hanging tough on an offer from Thomas H. Lee Partners and waiting for a better offer, which came in April from Apollo Global Management.
  • Landry's Restaurants (LNY), owner of fine-dining chains Chart House and Oceanaire,"eatertainment" brand Rainforest Cafe and others, is still holding out after receiving two offers from company chairman Tilman Fertitta. Fertitta first offered $14.75 a share, then in late April upped it to $21 a share. Still no sale.
  • Also still holding out: Japanese fine-dining legend Benihana (BNHA), despite an increased offer from RDG Capital in March, from $7 a share to $8.
Of course, not everyone is in good enough shape to get top dollar. Wellspring Capital Management sold off 56-unit Dave & Buster's (DAB) for $570 million earlier this month to Oak Hill Capital Partners, even though it had sought $600 million for the chain two years ago, back when it had 49 locations. Similarly, Magic Brands (MB) -- owner of the floundering Fuddruckers and Koo Koo Roo brands -- was probably lucky to get a $40 million offer from Tavistock Group that included closing 24 restaurants and taking the company through a quick bankruptcy reorganization last month.

But for operators who know their brand's value, the bad old days have already ended. By being patient, these owners are netting millions more.

Photo via Flickr user AntwerpenR

  • Carol Tice

    Carol Tice is a longtime business reporter whose work has appeared in Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times, and Nation's Restaurant News, among others. Online sites she's written for include and Yahoo!Hotjobs. She blogs about the business of writing at Make a Living Writing.