ORLANDO, FLA. — Earl Enterprises, parent company of Buca di Beppo and Bertucci’s, has acquired Brio Italian Grille and Bravo! Italian Kitchen from FoodFirst Global Restaurants, Inc. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
FoodFirst filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early April after struggling for months due to elevated food costs, labor pressure, unprofitable locations and the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to the filing.
“In order to save jobs and the viable restaurants, it will be necessary to pursue a company sale and an accompanying management services agreement,” the company said in the April 11 filing.
FoodFirst brought aboard Steve Layt as chief executive officer in late January to help fix the brands after the company closed 10 of its restaurants. Once the United States began ordering dining room closings in late March due to COVID-19, FoodFirst closed 71 of its 92 locations.
“We have experienced nothing short of devastating sales declines,” Mr. Layt said at the time of the bankruptcy filing. “The COVID-19 outbreak truly could not have come at a worse time for our business.”
The bankruptcy and sale of Bravo! and Brio restaurants comes two years after the brands were acquired by FoodFirst, a restaurant company formed by restaurateur Bradley D. Blum and investment firm GP Investments, Ltd. FoodFirst’s goal was to refresh the brands and be a “progressive, relevant, diverse and highly successful restaurant company for the 21st century,” the company said.
Brio Italian Grille is an Italian restaurant that serves dishes such as Pasta Alla Vodka, Chicken Limone and Gorgonzola Salmon Fresca. Brio (meaning “lively” or “full of life”) operates under the philosophy that “to eat well is to live well.” Brio has locations in 12 states, including Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Utah.
Bravo! Italian Kitchen offers made-to-order Italian cuisine such as Chicken Marsala, Chicken Parmesan, and Pasta Woozie featuring grilled chicken, fettuccine and alfredo. Bravo! restaurants operate across 12 states, including Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Bravo! and Brio join Earl Enterprises’ collection of restaurants that includes Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo, Earl of Sandwich, Bertucci’s, Chicken Guy!, Seaside on the Pier, Café Hollywood, Mixology 101 and Tequila Taqueria.
“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,” said Robert Earl, chairman of Earl Enterprises. “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.”