Landry’s makes a $37M bid for Restaurants Unlimited

The restaurant operator, which has bought numerous chains out of bankruptcy, has a “stalking horse” bid on another one.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Tilman Fertitta is at it again.

The “Billion Dollar Buyer,” who built Landry’s in part by acquiring chains such as Morton’s The Steakhouse, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Claim Jumper when their valuations were cheap or the companies were in bankruptcy, is on the prowl again, with a $37 million bid for Restaurants Unlimited.

Landry’s is the “stalking horse,” or lead bidder, for the casual-dining restaurant operator, which is being sold through bankruptcy court.

As the stalking horse, Landry’s has the initial bid. Anyone buying the company would have to outbid $37.2 million, plus pay Landry’s a breakage fee.

Restaurants Unlimited filed for bankruptcy protection in July with $39 million in secured debt.

The company operates 35 locations in several brands, including Kincaid’s and Palomino, and is owned by private-equity firm Sun Capital. It closed six locations before filing for bankruptcy.

The company had been trying to find a buyer for years but could not generate enough interest. It then said in legal filings that rising minimum wages and poorly performing new openings led to financial problems and missed debt payments, and it ultimately had to declare bankruptcy.

The Landry’s bid is not enough to pay all of the debt, but that could change during the auction if others enter the bidding. Secured debtors are paid first in a bankruptcy proceeding.  

If Landry’s were to win the bidding, the Restaurants Unlimited brands would join a large list of chains under the company’s banner, which includes McCormick & Schmick’s, The Oceanaire, Rainforest Cafe, Mitchell’s Fish Market and several other brands.

Not all of them have performed well of late, however. System sales declined 13.6% at McCormick in 2018, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. Sales at Rainforest Cafe declined 8.9%, while sales at Claim Jumper declined 7.6%.

Still, Fertitta has been in an acquiring mood recently. His Landcadia Holdings, a shell company, acquired delivery service Waitr last year, taking it public in the process. He earlier this year formed another “blank check” company sponsored by Landry’s with plans to buy a company and take it public.

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