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CEO of Benniganrsquos Franchising Co Paul Mangiamele
<p>CEO of Bennigan&rsquo;s Franchising Co., Paul Mangiamele</p>

Bennigan’s CEO buys out franchisor

Paul Mangiamele plans for growth, revival of Steak & Ale brand

Paul Mangiamele, CEO of Bennigan’s Franchising Co., has completed a management buyout of the franchisor of the Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale casual-dining brands, the company said Monday.

Mangiamele and his wife, Gwen Mangiamele, created Dallas-based Legendary Restaurant Brands LLC to buy out New York private-equity investor Fortress Investment Group LLC’s interest in Bennigan’s Franchising. Terms of deal, completed Feb. 11, were not disclosed.

“I think that if you are going to have the emotional connection, you might as well have the financial one too,” Mangiamele told Nation’s Restaurant News.

Mangiamele said he hopes to bring new life to both Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale.

Legendary Restaurant Brands assumes the role of franchisor for the 75 Bennigan’s units that remain after the 2008 Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings of S&A Restaurant Corp. and affiliated companies. That bankruptcy liquidation included the closure of about 240 company-owned Bennigan’s restaurants, which were then a division of Metromedia Restaurant Group, and all the Steak & Ale restaurants.

“This deal gives me the ability to be more agile in terms of decision-making and certain financial scenarios,” Mangiamele said.

He has been CEO of Bennigan’s Franchising since May 2011. Gwen Mangiamele has worked with contract foodservice company Compass Group and industry supplier Cintas Corp.

With this deal, Legendary now owns Bennigan’s Franchising, Steak & Ale Franchising and a company that holds all the intellectual property such as trademarks and registrations for the brands.

Legendary also owns the Bennigan’s On the Fly brand, an air-terminal version in the Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, which remains Bennigan’s’ largest foreign market with 25 restaurants.

Mangiamele, clearly passionate and loyal to both brands, has talked about bringing back the Steak & Ale brand for several years, said he’s negotiating for a possible side-by-side Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale project in a Dallas suburb.

“These are the only two brands Norman Brinker really created,” Mangiamele said.

Bennigan’s unit that opened in November 2014 in Santa Clara, Calif. Photo: Jeffrey Hosier

Brinker, the former chief executive and chairman emeritus of Dallas-based Brinker International Inc. who died in 2009, opened Steak & Ale in Dallas in 1966, breaking new ground for what has become the more than $37 billion casual-dining segment. He developed the first Bennigan’s in 1976.

“Next year will be the 40th and 50th year of these brands,” respectively, Mangiamele said. “There’s still a very, very strong emotional connection to both brands.”

Mangiamele cited the “Steak & Ale’s Comeback” Facebook page, which has been liked by more than 48,500 people.

“There are a lot of people rooting for us,” he said. “What I’m not going to do is bring back the old Steak & Ale with the dark, compartmentalized format inside. It will be a high-vibe, high-energy open dining room with a very cool bar, very polished casual.”

The most recent Bennigan’s renovation reopened in Santa Clara, Calif., in November, Mangiamele said. The remodeled store was developed by franchisee Narender Taneja, owner of the Pleasanton, Calif.-based JJM Group Hotels. Mangiamele said he’s in talks with Taneja for a California master development agreement.

Mangiamele added that the prototypical Bennigan’s is 5,500 square feet with 200 to 220 seats and has a loyal following for such items as the Monte Cristo sandwich and Bennigan’s Club served with “Irish hospitality.”

“Gwen and I have never been more excited about the brands’ futures than we are today,” he said.

Mangiamele said Fortress Investment Group was “phenomenal to work with” in the management buy-out.

“It would not have happened without their championing this with me within the Fortress organization,” Mangiamele said. “So it couldn’t have been a more agreeable purchase. They are really not equity players; they are more debt players. This was a very small holding for them. I liked them, and they liked me. I’ve been a good custodian of the brand.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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