First Bennigan’s, then CEO contemplates revival of Steak and Ale
Paul Mangiamele has guided one of the most unlikely comebacks in the restaurant business, leading Bennigan’s back to unit growth just five years after a very public collapse that included the closure of more than half its locations. (See story on page 26.) Now he’s looking toward a comeback that’s even less likely: Steak and Ale.
Both Bennigan’s and Steak and Ale were part of the Metromedia Restaurant Group. The restaurant legend Norman Brinker started Steak and Ale in 1966 and later launched Bennigan’s before he left the company in the early 1980s to start Chili’s.
In 2008, Steak and Ale had 58 company-owned locations, when Metromedia’s lender forced it to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. The company shut down 170 company-owned Bennigan’s locations. It also shut down the Steak and Ales.
But while Bennigan’s had 130 franchisee locations (most of which would later shut down on their own) and a new owner, Atalaya Capital Management, to keep the concept afloat, Steak and Ale was officially dead. It had no units after the bankruptcy, and no franchisees to keep the name alive.
Now that Bennigan’s is adding franchise units, Mangiamele is working on getting Steak and Ale back up and running. He wants to bring the brand back as a gastropub as soon as next year. “We’re testing the look and feel,” he said. “It’s going to be a franchise model. So it will have good unit economics and good returns.”
Such a move would be a major challenge. No human has eaten in a Steak and Ale in five years, meaning that for Mangiamele to bring it back he will need to reconnect with diners who had been abandoned when the brand shut down.
Mangiamele cautioned that Bennigan’s still takes precedent. He said the Steak and Ale comeback is “not on the front burner” while he looks to continue to add franchisees for Bennigan’s and return the 85-unit brand back to markets it left.
The Steak and Ale concept is in the “incubation” period, and he suggested its new menu would be eclectic. Mangiamele is working on the business model and the unit economics, and is open to getting the first unit off the ground as company-owned, a partnership or franchisee-owned. “I want to make sure everything is thought out before we go ahead,” he said.