April 30, 2019
Let’s be honest: we’ve given this sh*t stain of a company far too much coverage given its size. Yet, it’s part of a broader casual dining narrative that is important to follow and, significantly, we took it upon ourselves to highlight how this thing was SO CLEARLY headed towards bankruptcy a year ago considering the company is (somewhat inexplicably) publicly-traded ($KONA). We first mentioned it in this Members’-only piece in April 2018. We dug deeper in this Members’-only briefing on August 2018. Additional mentions came here, here, here (“…there is no way this thing DOESN’T end up in bankruptcy court soon. It just blew out its board. It is on to its umpteenth CEO in a matter of years. Revenues fell 15.7% in the most recent reported quarter. Same-store sales fell 14.1%. 14.1%!!!! It’s just a matter of ‘when’ at this point.”), and, finally, as recently as April 28, 2019, here, wherein we wrote “[s]tick a fork in it.”
Well, stick a fork in it, indeed. The company and several affiliated companies are now chapter 11 debtors in the District of Delaware.
To refresh your recollection, the company is a casual dining restaurant chain with 27 locations (down from 40+ locations when we first started discussing the company over a year ago). “The restaurants feature contemporary American favorites, award-winning sushi and an extensive selection of alcoholic beverages.” Award winning sushi, huh? We did some googling and were unable to ascertain which fine organization conferred upon Kona Grill Inc. an award for its fine sushi. But we digress.
As you might expect from such a long-time-coming sh*t show, the debtors’ first day filing papers are pure comedy chock full of hyperbolic bull sh*t. It’s amusing what the debtors say and it’s laughable what they don’t say. The first day declaration reads like marketing materials: it states that the company offers “an upscale contemporary ambience” with an “exceptional” dining experience and a “legendary” happy hour. The fact that this company is in bankruptcy belies the claim that the experience is exceptional. As for legend, Arya Stark is a legend; Tony Stark is a legend. Michael Jordan is a legend. Kona Grill has a bar that serves drinks. We can assure you with 100% certainty that there is absolutely nothing legendary about it. Indeed, revenues in fiscal ‘18 were $156.9mm, down 12.4% YOY, and, as of the petition date, the company had a meaningfully non-legendary $1.2mm of cash on hand. Legendary, our a$$es.
The company is party to a $33.2mm credit agreement split between a revolving loan and a term loan and has been in a state of perpetual amendment since Q1 2017. The company also owes unsecured trade creditors $8mm.
Why is the company in bankruptcy? Here’s where we get comedy by omission. Yes, sure, they acknowledge that they doubled their restaurants between ‘13 and ‘17, spent a ton on marketing to reverse negative same-store sale trends, and then engaged in an ill-advised stock repurchase program in 2016/2017, further draining much needed liquidity. Thereafter, the company was forced to deploy the standard playbook: cease opening new locations, shutter some underperforming stores (PETITION Note: the company filed a motion seeking to reject 18 leases already), fire people, cut back on training and staffing, etc. G-d help the people who actually ate there during this period: we can only imagine what happened to the food quality. What the company doesn’t say, though, is that there has been a revolving door of CEOs. We suppose the debtors ought to be commended for not completely throwing prior management teams under the bus. This may have something to do with active lawsuits between the company and a former CEO.
What’s crazy is that the company didn’t hire a banker until March 2019. This is a company that should have been marketed long ago. Notably, there’s no stalking horse buyer lined up. And while the company does have a commitment from KeyBank for $39.2mm of DIP financing (of which only $6mm is new money), the company also has a hard deadline of August 9, 2019 to avoid a default. Will it be able to find a buyer now?
We suppose we’ll find out how “legendary” things are after all.
Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge )
Capital Structure: $33.2mm
Legal: Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones LLP (James O’Neill, John Lucas, Jeremy Richards)
Financial Advisor/CRO: Alvarez & Marsal LLC (Christopher Wells, Jonathan Tibus)
Investment Banker: Piper Jaffrey
Claims Agent: Epiq Corporate Restructuring LLC (*click on the link above for free docket access)
Other Parties in Interest:
DIP Agent: KeyBank National Association
Legal: Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC (Mary Caloway)