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Billionaire Restaurateur Tilman Fertitta Talks Plans For Latest Acquisition, New York’s BR Guest

November 10, 2016

Tilman Fertitta, the billionaire owner of hospitality group Landry’s, Inc., has his sights set on New York, where Landry’s is poised to become one of the largest independent restaurant operators via Fertitta’s deal to acquire the BR Guest portfolio of brands.

BR Guest operates more than a dozen restaurants in Manhattan—including Dos Caminos, Blue Water Grill, Bill’s Bar & Burger, Atlantic Grill and Strip House, among others—as well as locations in New Jersey, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh. Fertitta is acquiring the company from Starwood Capital Group for an undisclosed sum. The purchase, expected to close in the next few weeks, will see the BR Guest lineup join brands including Landry’s Seafood, Bubba Gump, Mastro’s, Morton’s The Steakhouse and Rainforest Cafe among others in Fertitta’s stable.

“We like the New York market. We already have Morton’s, Bubba Gump, Mastro’s and Chart House there, and this gives us a bigger foothold,” Fertitta said in an interview with SND, adding that the BR Guest properties’ current operators will stay in place. “There’s great growth potential for Dos Caminos and Bill’s Burgers. It gives us over 20 restaurants in Manhattan, which probably makes us the largest independent. We’re very excited about it.”

Asked whether he’d consider further expanding BR Guest’s restaurant brands beyond their Manhattan stronghold looking ahead, Fertitta said, “One hundred percent. We’re very interested in growing Bill’s Burgers and also the Strip House.”

The BR Guest buy is the latest in a string of acquisitions for Houston-based Landry’s in recent years, including McCormick & Schmick’s for $132 million in 2011, Morton’s for $117 million in 2012 and Mastro’s for an undisclosed amount in 2013. But Fertitta characterized the BR Guest purchase as an opportunistic play. “This is a company I’ve watched for years,” he noted. “We had the ability to write out a check, and I think they’d been wanting to sell for a long time and preferred to sell to a restaurant company. Private equity doesn’t belong in the restaurant industry. You have to have restaurant people on the ground.”

Discussing trends across the Landry’s portfolio—which numbers more than 500 high-end and casual dining restaurants worldwide—Fertitta said, “The restaurant business is a little soft right now, and has been for about a year. But you have to remember this: we were on a seven- or eight-year run of positive comps of 2%–3%. I don’t care what business you’re in, even if you’re Apple or Microsoft, you’re not going to have positive comps after positive comps year after year. We won’t worry about it or change our business.” While Landry’s suburban concepts have faced a more challenging landscape lately, its urban and tourist-geared brands like Morton’s, Mastro’s, Bubba Gump and Rainforest Cafe have all been doing “extremely well,” he added. —Daniel Marsteller

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