A number of Ovation Brands Inc. employees have been let go in the wake of Food Management Partners’ acquisition last week of the buffet operator, former workers said this week.
San Antonio-based Food Management Partners Inc., or FMP, reported the deal last Thursday with Greer, S.C.-based Ovation Brands, which owns five buffet brands — Ryan’s, Fire Mountain, Country Buffet, Old Country Buffet and Hometown Buffet — and the casual-dining Tahoe Joes Famous Steakhouse concept.
On Monday, Ovation Brands CEO Anthony Wedo told the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal that he was no longer with the company, but declined further comment.
Sources who asked to remain unnamed said the layoffs were in both the Greer headquarters office and in the Eagan, Minn., support office, where Ovation’s predecessor, Buffets Inc., had been based.
Nation’s Restaurant News was unable to determine the total number of layoffs.
E-mailed questions to Peter Donbavand, FMP vice president of business development, had not been returned by press time, after being referred by Michael Griffith, FMP director of marketing.
Former Ovation Brands employees said they were given no notice of the layoffs. “FMP offered zero severance to the laid-off employees,” said one employee who was let go. “No advanced notification was given either.”
With the acquisition of Ovation Brands’ concepts, FMP’s portfolio has grown to 500 restaurants and more than $1 billion in annual sales, FMP said last week. Ovation Brands has 328 restaurants in 35 states.
In April, FMP acquired Carlsbad, Calif.-based Catalina Restaurant Group, parent to the family-dining Coco’s Bakery Restaurants and Carrows Restaurants. FMP immediately shuttered more than half of the company’s 149 restaurants, citing poor performance. A former employee has since filed a federal lawsuit, charging FMP with failing to provide fair notice of the layoffs.
Privately-held FMP’s other concepts include Don Pablo’s, Furr’s Fresh Buffet and its Dynamic Foods subsidiary, and Zio’s Italian Kitchen. At one time, FMP operated franchised Buffalo Wild Wings and Little Caesars locations, but it has divested those.
FMP said its Ovation Brands acquisition also includes a millwork and manufacturing facility.
Earlier this year, three years after emerging from its second bankruptcy, Ovation Brands hired financial advisors to evaluate a sale.
In the most recent NRN Top 100 census of companies, Ovation Brands/Buffets Restaurants Holdings Inc. ranked No. 49 for the Latest Year, with a company-estimated $751 million in U.S. foodservice sales for the June-ended 2015 fiscal year. That estimate was down 5.9 percent from the Preceding Year, when the company reported $797.8 million in U.S. foodservice sales for the June-ended 2014 fiscal year.
Ovation Brands, which was renamed in 2012 from Buffets Inc., has seen several bankruptcy proceedings in the past several years. Ovation Brands' roots date to 2006, with the merger of Buffets Inc. and Ryan’s Restaurant Group, which created a 675-unit buffet company that carried a high percentage of debt.
The company filed for bankruptcy the first time in 2008. It emerged in 2009, but filed for bankruptcy again in 2012, with nearly 500 restaurants. The company closed 140 locations during its second bankruptcy.