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Romano's Macaroni Grill closes all Missouri locations, including Columbia restaurant

When Macaroni Grill waitress Heather Hoffmeyer heard there was a mandatory phone conference at 8 a.m. Monday, she knew the news would not be good.

Despite months of assurances from managers that the restaurant would not close, employees of Columbia's Macaroni Grill at 305 N. Stadium Blvd. found out during the early-morning phone call that they were suddenly without jobs.

Macaroni Grill employees in the St. Louis area got the same news. Ignite Restaurant Group has closed all of its Missouri locations, which are now scrubbed from the Macaroni Grill website.

"We've been asking the managers over and over" if the restaurant was closing, Hoffmeyer said. "Asked them again last night because we knew today was the last day of the pay period for this year. If we're going to close, we're going to close today."

In September, the Kroenke Group requested permits to demolish the Macaroni Grill building and construct a new building on the site for Chick-fil-A. The Kroenke Group did not return calls Monday to discuss whether a Chick-Fil-A lease had been finalized.

At the Macaroni Grill building early Monday afternoon, Penske Truck Rental trucks sat parked outside the otherwise empty restaurant parking lot. Movers loaded up table booths and boxes of equipment. Two representatives from Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group, the company that owns Macaroni Grill, were overseeing the cleanup, but refused to give the Tribune any information about how many employees worked at the Macaroni Grill.

Many employees had been worried since October, when the Tribune and other news outlets reported the Kroenke Group was negotiating with Chick-fil-A for the space. The Kroenke Group had submitted requests to the city to demolish the Macaroni Grill and build a 5,000 square-foot Chick-fil-A in its place.

Hoffmeyer, who had worked at the Macaroni Grill for two years, said there were signs the restaurant's higher-ups knew the closing was coming. They did not order a new reservation book for 2015, for example. She said the restaurant continued selling gift cards, though, and when one employee warned a customer who was purchasing a gift card, one of the managers became upset with her, she said.

Ignite Restaurant Group owns the Macaroni Grill brand, which it purchased last year. The company also owns Joe's Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern + Tap. The company did not return phone calls and emails when the Tribune first reported the possibility of the restaurant closing nor on Monday after the restaurant closed.

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