Bennigan's franchisees organize media relations effort

PLANO, TX: Bennigan's Franchising Company (BFC) is working to distinguish its restaurants from the hundreds of corporate Bennigan's that were closed when the S&A Restaurant Corp filed for Chapter 7 July 29.

PLANO, TX: Bennigan's Franchising Company (BFC) is working to distinguish its restaurants from the hundreds of corporate Bennigan's that were closed when the S&A Restaurant Corp filed for Chapter 7 July 29.

On the same day S&A filed for bankruptcy and all corporate-owned restaurants closed, private-equity firm Atalaya Capital Management, due to collateral voting rights in an S&A subsidiary, put in place a new board for BFC.

The board tapped an interim management team, financial restructuring and crisis management firm CRG Partners Group, and a new PR AOR Rubenstein Associates, which was hired on July 30. Other partners are also aiding the effort during the company's transition.

“I think the biggest issue we have [right now] is public perception that all of Bennigan's stores are closed,” said Rob Carringer, managing partner at CRG. “We're working to make sure that the customer base understands that franchise-based stores are still open for business. . .[that] the brand has not really changed.”

Carringer said there are 81 domestic and 51 international franchises open, and 30 to 50 formerly corporate-owned restaurants might be acquired.

So far, BFC's PR efforts have focused on media relations to reach consumers with its message, Carringer said, but individual franchises have also reached out to consumers via e-mail blasts, in addition to press announcements in local markets, without any paid media.

Rubenstein Associates assists with media outreach, ranging from legal-oriented publications to regional talk radio stations, in addition to providing franchisees with talking points.

“We're really trying to work with the folks at CRG on providing local franchisees with help when asked and when appropriate,” said Alex Stockham, VP at Rubenstein Associates.

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