The restaurant industry has an undeserved reputation of instability. In fact, restaurants that are well managed thrive in any economic environment. Slow consumer spending is not a deterrent to starting a restaurant business. One restaurant group headquartered in Austin, Texas, plans to expand with new eatery concepts after selling several successful locations for $59,000,000.
Larry Foles and Guy Villavaso recently sold all eight Eddie V’s Prime Seafood fine-dining establishments to publicly owned Darden Restaurants. In addition to the two Austin locations of Eddie V’s, the restaurant also has spots in Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, San Diego, and Scottsdale. Darden also acquired the three Wildfish Seafood Grille sister restaurants.
Foles and Villavaso started Eddie V’s in 2000 and Wildfish in 2005. Darden is best known as owner of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains. But, the national company is expanding with specialty restaurants. A spokesman cited strong growth potential for restaurants that establish a meaningful brand to excite consumers. Darden has other restaurants in its specialty group, including Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and Capital Grille.
The financial commitment of Darden is indicative of the growth prospects for a sound restaurant concept. To help Darden in the transition, Foles and Villavaso have agreed to serve as consultants for two years. All of the existing restaurant managers and chefs remain following the Eddie V’s acquisition.
The deal was all cash for Foles and Villavaso. They intend to build upon the Austin restaurant they retained – Roaring Fork – plus establish a gastropub concept. The deal with Darden reflects the ability of a restaurant business to prosper and the faith that experienced restaurant operators have in the industry’s future.