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CEO out at Bear Rock Cafe as management co. takes over

CARY N.C. The largest shareholder in the Bear Rock Cafe sandwich brand has brought in a management company to run the 27-unit regional operation, whose founder and chief executive has resigned, a company employee confirmed.

Reached at headquarters here, the employee acknowledged that Bear Rock is now being managed by Atlanta-based Restaurant Growth Brands Inc., which was solicited by the New York City-based private-equity firm United Enterprises Fund. The employee also said that Bear Rock’s headquarters are being moved to Atlanta, but declined further comment.

Anews report quotes a Restaurant Growth Brands official as saying Gary Bryant was not forced out as CEO of Bear Rock. Bryant opened the chain’s first restaurant 11 years ago and grew the system to 39 units as of 2006. The corporate website still asserts that franchise and area development agreements call for 150 units to be opened across the United States.

At least two franchisees have filed lawsuits against the company. Franchisees have complained that the bulk of the cafes’ business came at lunch, as is typical of a fast-food place. But the corporate overhead, they have asserted, is more in line with the expenses of higher-end restaurants.

Acorporate statement cited in news reports says the new management company wants to grow the brand to 125 units over the next five years. The plan also calls for menu changes and a redesign to foster dinner and catering business and boost profits.

Neither United nor Restaurant Growth Brands could be reached for comment as of press time.

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