Bravo, Brio restaurants have new ownership, new lease on life after bankruptcy

Credit: Mark Fisher

Credit: Mark Fisher

***UPDATE (June 11, 2020)***

The potential suitor for a large part of the Bravo Cucina Italiana and Brio Tuscan Grille chain of restaurants made it official today: the marriage is complete, and there are promises of better times ahead.

Earl Enterprises, a restaurant company that operates Planet Hollywood and Buca di Beppo restaurant brands, among others, announced today, June 11, that it has acquired the assets of Brio and Bravo from FoodFirst Global Restaurants, which had filed for reorganization bankruptcy in April.

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“We’re very excited about adding these restaurants to our group and look forward to not only investing in the future of BRIO and BRAVO!, but also the employees who are the backbone of these two restaurants,” Robert Earl, chairman of Earl Enterprises, said in a release. “As a bright light in this challenging time, once all locations are fully operational, we look forward to welcoming back more than 4,000 employees who have been in limbo since FoodFirst filed for bankruptcy.”

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The release said fans “of these two beloved restaurants can rest assured that the inspired cuisine, gracious service, and unique charm that make up the brand identities of BRIO and BRAVO! will not only be preserved but nurtured to reach even greater heights by Earl Enterprises through their steadfast devotion to cultivating an environment for exceptional hospitality.”

This news outlet reached out to the spokeswoman for Earl Enterprises to try to find out what impact the change of ownership would have on the two locations still operating in the Dayton area.

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Bravo operates a restaurant in front of the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp., and Brio operates a location at The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek. Both are open and operating as carryout and delivery and curbside pickup locations, and its customers are being told by employees that they are gearing up to open the dining rooms of each restaurant. A Bravo employee said his restaurant’s dining room could open as early as next week, whereas Brio is probably a couple of weeks away, its employees said.

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“Details are still being determined across the board as the acquisition has just been finalized, so there’s no further location-specific information that we can share at this time unfortunately,” the spokeswoman for the new owner of Brio and Bravo said.

There also was no new information available about the Bravo restaurant that had operated at the entrance to the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek, which was removed as a location on Bravo’s web site several weeks ago. Fairfield Commons mall management has declined to comment on the restaurant’s status.

***PREVIOUS STORY (May 27, 2020)***

A potential buyer has emerged for a large part of the Bravo Cucina Italiana and Brio Tuscan Grille chain of restaurants, according to documents filed in the restaurant chain’s parent company’s reorganization bankruptcy case yesterday and today, May 27.

The documents reveal that FoodFirst Global Restaurants Inc., the corporate parent of Bravo and Brio restaurants, is asking a federal bankruptcy judge’s permission to sell “at least 45” of the approximately 100 Brio and Bravo restaurants across the country in a private sale. The potential buyer is connected with Earl Enterprises, which through its affiliates, owns and operates more than 200 restaurant locations nationwide under brands such as Bucca de Beppo and Planet Hollywood.

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Bravo operates a restaurant in front of the Dayton Mall in Miami Twp., and Brio operates a location at The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek. A Bravo restaurant that had operated at the entrance to the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek is no longer listed as a location on Bravo’s web site. Fairfield Commons management declined to comment on the restaurant’s status today.

While the precise list of 45 restaurants that would be a part of the sale was not included in the court documents, FoodFirst has previously said most of its restaurants have shut down completely during the coronavirus pandemic, which severely crippled the company.

In contrast, the Dayton Mall Bravo has been serving its menu via delivery and curbside carryout for about three weeks, and the Brio restaurant at The Greene resumed its carryout and delivery service five days ago. An employee of Brio says plans call for reopening the restaurant’s dining room in “a couple of weeks.”

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The current owners of Bravo and Brio say it’s not uncommon to arrange for a private sale of assets even during a bankruptcy reorganization court case, and they urged the bankruptcy case judge to pave the way for the sale.

Credit: Mark Fisher

Credit: Mark Fisher

“(T)he proposed purchase price for the assets, the low probability that a competing offer will actually emerge with an offer higher or better than the offer of the purchaser, does not justify the costs and risks associated with delay,” they wrote. “As a result, the transaction with the Purchaser allows the Debtors to maximize the value of the Assets and provides much needed liquidity” to the current owners.

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The purchase agreement includes a $25 million credit bid and $50,000 in cash, plus the assumption of the liabilities of about $4.5 million, according to online documents from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Central Florida, where the case is being heard.

Judge Lori V. Vaughan filed an order this morning, May 27, shortening the notice time for a potential sale, although the dozens of creditors involved in the FoodFirst Global will still have an opportunity to object to the sale.

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The buyers and sellers are seeking to close the purchase agreement by June 30.

The Bravo and Brio restaurants concepts were born in Columbus in the 1990s. The  April bankruptcy filing came nearly two years after Bravo Brio Restaurant Group Inc. went private in a May 2018 deal valued at $100 million. The company changed its name to FoodFirst and moved its headquarters to Orlando, Florida.

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Bravo opened its first Dayton-area location — then called Bravo Italian Kitchen — on State Route 725 east of the Dayton Mall in 1995 and moved to a new location in front of the mall in 2006.

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