Buffets to exit Ch. 11 bankruptcy

EAGAN Minn. Buffets Holdings Inc. said Friday it had received court approval for its reorganization plans and expects to soon emerge from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Buffets, the parent of 536 restaurants operating under the brands Old Country Buffet, Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Ryan’s and Fire Mountain Grill and Tahoe Joe’s, filed for Ch. 11 protection from creditors in January. It had struggled with decreasing sales and a large debt burden from the $876 million acquisition of the Ryan’s chain in 2006.

The company said it received commitments for up to $117.5 million in new, first lien exit financing from various lenders, which will enable the company to satisfy its bankruptcy obligations and provide working capital for ongoing operations. In addition, $139.8 million in second lien rollover financing will remain with prepetition lenders, the company noted.

“We will emerge a stronger and more financially secure enterprise,” said Mike Andrews, Buffets’ chief executive, “and we look forward to building on the groundwork laid by our approved plan of reorganization by continuing to improve our operations and invest in our business.”

Buffets also said last week that it will debut a new prototype for its Old Country Buffet chain in Colorado Springs, Colo., this summer.

The new design includes a display grill, an exhibition-style cooking station, a market-themed interior, a streetscape and serving areas separated into cultural cuisines as well as food groups. For example, it will have a bakery, salad bar, and Italian and Mexican food stations.

“Our aim is to increase market share by appealing to Americans’ desire for stimulating environments and healthy food choices,” said David Solner, principal of the Cunningham Group Architecture in Minneapolis, which helped design the restaurant prototype.

Contact Dina Berta at [email protected] [3].