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Bennigan's CEO buys chain, plans rebound

Paul Mangiamele, chief executive of die-hard Bennigan’s, is expected to announce Monday that he and his wife have purchased the restaurant chain along with Steak and Ale and a related brand.

Mangiamele, who has been in the hospitality industry for nearly 40 years, became chief executive of the franchising arm of the Irish-themed Bennigan’s in 2011. He will now take full control of the brand nearly seven years after a spectacular collapse that pushed Bennigan’s and Steak and Ale into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation.

Some franchised Bennigan’s locations survived the crash, but Steak and Ale was wiped out overnight.

Mangiamele says he “fell in love” with the brand, its employees and franchisees while guiding the company’s “epic comeback.”

“My wife and I plan to drive the brand to the next level,” said Mangiamele, 62. “Not only will I shout it from rooftops, but I’ll put my money where my mouth is.

“Very few executives put themselves at risk today,” he added. “This is what’s termed ‘all in.’”

The new company, Dallas-based Legendary Restaurant Brands LLC, owned by Mangiamele and his wife Gwen, purchased 100 percent of the intellectual property and franchising rights from Fortress Investment Group. That private equity firm had purchased what was left of the company out of bankruptcy and brought in Mangiamele to lead the rebirth.

Terms of the sale, which closed last week, were not disclosed.

Officials with Fortress could not be reached for comment.

The boss-turned-owner, who speaks of “bleeding green,” has growth plans for Steak and Ale, a new, smaller-in-size Bennigan’s, and a related brand called Bennigan’s On The Fly for nontraditional locations such as airports and cruise ships.

Mangiamele is attempting to do something rare in the restaurant industry — turn a large chain that went through a very public Chapter 7 liquidation back into a growing, popular, relevant brand.

And now he’s doing it on his own dime.

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