St. Louis-based Red Lion Beef Corp., parent to the 23-unit Lion’s Choice restaurant chain, was sold this week to two private equity groups, including one headed by company executive Mark Disper.

Disper, through his investment fund Black Rock Holdings LLC and St. Louis-based Millstone Capital Advisors, purchased the assets of Red Lion. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The new operating company, LC Corporate LLC, is headed by Disper as president and chief executive. Millstone Capital Advisor’s principals, Bob Millstone and Fred Flegel, serve with Disper on the new company’s board.


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Marvin Gibbs, who was a co-founder of the roast beef concept in 1967, and owned Red Lion Beef Corp., has agreed to stay on in a consulting capacity, the company said.

Disper, who bought a Lion’s Choice franchise in 2000 and later sold it, returned to the company about three years ago as vice president of sales and marketing and president of its franchise operation.

Typical Lion’s Choice units average 2,700 square feet and seat between 75 and 100 guests. The average per person check is $8.35, Disper said. The service is counter-order and customers wait for their number to be called.

“Our food quality and our service/customer dining experience puts us on the same level as seated restaurants,” Disper told Nation’s Restaurant News.

“Our signature item is, and always has been, our real roasted beef sandwich,” he noted. “We use only fresh, lean top round roast — the kind you would find at a butcher shop. We slow-roast our beef daily in our restaurants to ensure the freshest product possible. Finally, we season our beef with a secret blend of spices, slice it razor thin and pile it atop a buttered bun.”

Disper added that initial growth plans will be through the addition of 10 to 15 company-owned restaurants in the St. Louis area, he said, as well as potential growth throughout the Midwest.

Lion’s Choice currently has 15 company-owned stores and eight franchised units.

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless