Bennigan's Comeback Gets A Big Boost

Lots of restaurant chains are taking the comeback trail, but few would seem to have as long a journey as Dallas-based casual diner Bennigan's. For those of you who don't remember, that was the chain that declared bankruptcy in 2008 and padlocked the doors of its 150 corporate-owned units. Most of the 150 or so franchisee-owned units subsequently closed, or were forced to close, in the following years and now, five years later, some people still wonder whether the chain still exists.

Bennigan's does exist, and this week its comeback got a lot easier, when it announced the signing of five new development agreements for 20 units in all. Notably, one of those new franchisees is Aslam Khan, the CEO of Falcon Holdings, one of the largest franchisees in the country with 200 Church's restaurants. Khan will build five units in Texas and in Florida, with the first unit expected to open in Orlando in 2013. "Having been a franchisee for several decades, I seek franchisors with a razor-like focus on providing the resources and infrastructure that not only supports the franchisees but provides a business model capable of providing compelling returns on capital," Khan said in a statement. "For me, it's about finding true restaurant operators servicing operators. I've found this unique formula in Bennigan's."

Khan, in particular, lends an air of credibility to Bennigan's comeback efforts and the signings of the deals will help kick its domestic growth efforts into a higher gear. Franchisors are falling over themselves trying to get big franchisees like Falcon Holdings to invest in their systems. And Khan, a son of Pakistani farmers who emigrated to the U.S. and took a job washing dishes at a Church's for $3.25 an hour, is a highly regarded franchisee (not to mention a former Franchise Times coverboy). Khan's first location will open on the side of a former Bennigan's in Orlando.

Bennigan's also signed deals with other experienced operators, including David and Melissa Hunt, owners of foodservice and hotel businesses who will develop five locations in Tennessee. Other experienced operators will open units in Florida and Texas. Bennigan's is approaching 100 units, but much of its post-collapse unit growth has come in other countries like Mexico and Dubai. In the meantime, the company has launched a new prototype and design and a new bar experience. The company opened three units in December alone, in Maryland, Texas and Arkansas.

"Our newest franchise partners are joining the Bennigan's renaissance at a very exciting time, and we are thrilled to grow in these states for years to come," said Paul Mangiamele, Bennigan's CEO.

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News, notes and commentary on franchise financing, including SBA lending, both the SBA 7(a) program and the SBA 504 program, franchise finance programs, development incentives, big deals and startup lending.

  Mary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and its sister publication, the Restaurant Finance Monitor. She is a frequent speaker at meetings and conferences, and at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference. You can find her on Twitter at @mlarson1011.
  Reporter Jonathan Maze covers restaurants and finance for Franchise Times. He also writes for our sister publication, The Restaurant Finance Monitor, and writes a daily blog on the restaurant industry at You can also catch him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze.




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