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Wow Cafe’s owner buys Garces Restaurant Group

Ballard Brands and a local investor paid $8 million for chef Jose Garces’ restaurants out of bankruptcy.
Garces Group

The owner of Wow Cafe and PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans has teamed up with a local investor to buy Food Network chef Jose Garces’ restaurant group out of bankruptcy.

3BMI, a group formed by Covington, La.-based Ballard Brands and local investor David Maser, have agreed to pay $8 million in cash and assumed liabilities to acquire Garces’ Restaurant Group. A bankruptcy court in New Jersey has approved the sale.

Under the deal, Garces will remain with the new company as its chief culinary officer and the company will remain based in Philadelphia.

“You jump at the opportunity to work with a chef with Jose’s credentials,” Scott Ballard, co-founder of Ballard Brands, said in a statement. “We have had many conversations of what this future will look like and I will tell you it is bright. There is so much potential in what we can do together.”

Garces Group, which has 13 restaurants in its portfolio, filed for bankruptcy protection in May amid lawsuits stemming from the company’s financial problems—including one from investors alleging that he had mismanaged operations and ignored requests that he step aside.

Ballard Group had originally agreed to pay $5 million in cash and assumed liabilities to buy the company but later raised its offer, though it was the only bidder. Ballard operates several different restaurant concepts in the Southeast, such as Boardhouse Serious Sandwiches and The Original City Diner. The brands operate 150 locations.

Under the deal, 3BMI will be the listed owner for several of Garces’ restaurants, including Amada, Tinto, Village Whiskey, The Olde Bar, JG Domestic, Voler and Garces Events.

The new company will also take control of management contracts that operate Olon and Okatshe in the Tropicana Hotel and Amada and Distrito in Ocean Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., Chubb Conference Center in Lafayette Hill, Pa., and Ortzi in New York City.

Garces’ restaurant 24 will close on Saturday as the company will relocate its corporate headquarters and test kitchen. The restaurant Garces Trading Co. was not subject to sale and will close.

Ronnie Artigues, general counsel of Ballard Brands, will be CEO of the new partnership. Most, if not all, of Garces Group’s 750 employees will remain with the company.

Garces called the deal “a new beginning.”

“The experience of a Garces restaurant or catered events will not change, nor will the quality,” Garces said in a statement. “In fact, things are going to keep getting better.”

Maser in a statement said that Garces “has been a central force behind Philadelphia’s emergence as a premier restaurant city and destination.”

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