Sam Borgese is running Coco’s Bakery and Catalina Restaurant again. Sort of.
The longtime industry executive is currently the CEO of Shari’s Restaurants owner Shari’s Management Corp., which over the summer has made a very quiet deal to acquire Coco’s and Carrows from Food Management Partners (FMP).
How quiet? The deal was never announced. Borgese said he could not comment on the deal when asked about it on Monday. But Shari’s has been saying in announcements that it operates the family-dining brands, and FMP’s website says it has divested the chains.
The acquisition is the latest chapter in a troubled history for the two California concepts, which includes a bankruptcy, multiple quiet sales and a mass closure that led to a lawsuit from employees.
Borgese had led the brands, when they made up Catalina Restaurant Group, from 2003 through 2008. He helped turn the company around following a 2001 bankruptcy filing, and guided the chains through their 2006 sale to Zensho America, a subsidiary of a 4,000-unit Japanese restaurant operator that was Coco’s and Carrows’ largest international franchisee.
The brands struggled under Zensho’s ownership, and by 2015 the Japanese company had sold them to FMP.
FMP, which had been a Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee, was buying up low-cost restaurant brands, including the buffet brands Ryan’s and Old Country Buffet, Furr’s Fresh Buffet and Don Pablo’s, among others.
FMP quickly closed dozens of restaurants around California, leading to a class action filed by employees of the restaurants, who accused the company of not providing them enough notice. Catalina won the lawsuit.
Today, the two brands operate just 60 locations in the U.S., down from well over 200 in 2006. Coco’s and Carrows operated 149 locations when Zensho sold them to Food Management.
As for Borgese, he has overseen Logan’s Roadhouse, Max Brenner International and Charlie Brown’s Corp. He was named the CEO of the 93-unit, Beaverton, Ore.-based Shari’s last year.