Ovation Brands on Thursday said it closed 74 underperforming locations of its various buffet brands in a purge of more than a fifth of the company’s units.

The closures affect all of the chain’s brands, including Old Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Fire Mountain and Country Buffet. They come months after San Antonio-based Food Management Partners Inc. acquired Ovation.

"Ovation Brands was acquired by Food Management Partners in August 2015," Peter Donbavand, vice president of business development, said in a statement. "Since that time, we have continued to execute former management’s operating plan to stabilize and enhance the performance of the company. However, based on ongoing assessments of individual restaurants, it is necessary to shutter locations for the continued viability of the brands and our employees."

The locations were shuttered on Thursday. And they continued Ovation’s gradually shrinking size.

The company, formerly known as Buffets Inc., had 675 locations following a 2006 acquisition of Ryan’s Restaurant Group. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2008, however, with significant debt, and has been shrinking ever since. It filed a second bankruptcy in 2012. The company was then acquired by a collection of distressed debt providers.

Ovation had been in need of additional investment last year when it was sold to Food Management Partners.

Former CEO Anthony Wedo left Ovation Brands shortly after that sale was concluded. And FMP laid off employees in the wake of the acquisition, both in Greer, S.C. and in a support office in Eagan, Minn.

The company had 328 locations before the closures, meaning it has shrunk by two-thirds since the 2006 Ryan’s acquisition.

In his statement, Donbavand said employees of the closed restaurants “will be given the opportunity to apply for positions at operating stores.” He also said the company expects to add staff to the operating restaurants “enabling us to provide the service levels our guests expect and deserve.”

“We know these decisions are not easy, however, we strongly believe that this direction is best for the long-term health of all our brands,” Donbavand said.

FMP has acquired numerous brands in recent years, some of them out of bankruptcy, and has a portfolio of 500 locations.

But it also has a track record of aggressive staff cuts and unit closures.

Last year, FMP bought Carlsbad, Calif.-based Catalina Restaurant Group, parent of Coco’s Bakery Restaurants and Carrows Restaurants, and the company quickly closed more than half of their 149 locations. FMP has also acquired Don Pablo’s, Furr’s Fresh Buffet and Zio’s Italian Kitchen.

Contact Jonathan Maze at jonathan.maze@penton.com.
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