Del Frisco’s scales back planned openings

Del Frisco’s scales back planned openings

Company continues to consider options after strategic closures

Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group Inc., which is continuing to consider strategic alternatives that include a possible sale, has over the past year closed and sold off a number of restaurants and plans no Grille opening in the next two years, executives said Tuesday.

The Irving, Texas-based casual-dining operator owns four brands, including Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Grille, Barcelona Wine Bar and Bartaco. The company sold its 14-unit Sullivan’s Steakhouse to Romano’s Macaroni Grill on Sept. 21 and in December said its board was considering a sale of all or part of the company.

“As part of our asset portfolio optimization strategy, we also closed a number of restaurants last year,” DFRG CEO Norman Abdallah said in a fourth-quarter earnings call Tuesday. Those closures include three Grilles, two Bartacos and the Double Eagle in Chicago, which was closed in January.

“We have one additional closure under consideration,” Abdallah said, but beyond that no other restaurant shutterings are being considered.

“These steps are necessary to optimize our portfolio, ensure high returns and solidify our platform for future growth,” he told analysts.

No Grille openings are planned this year or in 2020, Abdallah said, “as we seek to optimize our current portfolio and absorb learnings from market research conducted in 2017.”

The company is also scaling back planned openings of its other brands for 2019, said Neil Thomson, DFRG chief financial officer.

“In November,” Thomson said, “we had guided for 11 to 13 restaurants. However, we have since experienced some construction delay, and we’ve also pushed some openings back into 2020.”

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 25, the Del Frisco group’s net loss narrowed to $8.1 million, or 24 cents a share, from a loss of $15.1 million, or 73 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Revenues increased 23.3% to $123.8 million from $100.4 million in the same quarter last year.

Total same-store sales increased 0.1% in the fourth quarter.

The company ended the year with 73 restaurants, including 15 Barcelona Wine Bars, 16 Double Eagles, 18 Bartacos and 24 Grilles in 16 states and Washington, D.C. So far in the first quarter, the company has opened a Bartaco in Madison, Wis.; a Barcelona in Charlotte, N.C.; and a Del Frisco’s in Century City, a Los Angeles location that also includes a private upstairs lounge with its own menu.

That second-floor Del Frisco’s space has been branded as The Edith, and Abdallah said the company will begin more marketing for it soon.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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