Buffets Inc. has rebranded itself as Ovation Brands Inc., unveiling the new name and logo at its Greer, S.C., headquarters this week.

The parent company of the HomeTown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, Country Buffet, Ryan’s and Fire Mountain buffet chains and the Tahoe Joe’s Famous Steakhouse casual-dining brand made the name change to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary and mark a new phase in its post-turnaround plans.

“We are a different company now; we are foundationally about continuous innovation,” Anthony Wedo, who joined Buffets Inc. as chief executive last December, said in a statement. “We are passionate about building a new operating culture across all of our brands. The name Ovation Brands represents a call to action for all our teammates and guests: Our goal is to ensure that each and every day our six brands are worthy of applause.”

Several major initiatives are underway at Ovation, including the “Main Street” reimaging effort that incorporates a contemporary food court design, modern décor and a new hospitality training program for the company’s waitstaff. All seven Country Buffet restaurants in the Denver market have completed the reimaging initiative, and Minneapolis is the next market to adopt it.

The company supported the “Main Street” rebranding in Denver with a “Make It Right” advertising campaign, which featured Wedo pledging the brand’s commitment to quality food and service. The market has experienced a “significant double-digit increase” in same-store sales, Ovation said.

Wedo added that the name change to Ovation Brands would allow for the development of restaurant brands beyond the five buffet concepts that account for the vast majority of the company’s 342 locations in 35 states.

“This company is about reinventing the guest experience, whether in the buffet space, the polished-casual concept or anywhere else we choose to expand,” Wedo said.

Ovation Brands is a leaner organization than its forerunner Buffets Inc. was at the time of its January 2012 filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company, which then was based in Eagan, Minn., had 494 restaurants in 38 states and closed 81 stores as part of the reorganization.

The company emerged from bankruptcy in June 2012 with $50 million in exit financing and 398 company-owned restaurants, a number that periodically decreased further throughout this year. However, the company ended fiscal 2013 with positive momentum, registering positive same-store sales in the third and fourth quarters.

Ovation Brands operates 333 steak-buffet restaurants and nine locations of Tahoe Joe’s.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
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