In 🍟Casual Dining is a Hot Mess🍟, we wrote:
…don’t let the lull in restaurant activity fool you. As we’ve stated before, this is a space worth watching given intense competition and the rise of food delivery and meal kit services - both direct-to-consumer and in-grocery.
Looks like we spoke to soon about a lull. Earlier this week RMH Franchise Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy in the District of Delaware. If you’ve never heard of RMH Franchise Holdings Inc., have no fear. You haven’t. Nor had we. But it is purportedly the second largest franchisee operator of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar restaurants, operating 159 restaurants across 15 states. The company represents a bit less than 10% of all Applebee’s locations. RMH cobbled together this footprint after a string of acquisitions between 2012 and 2015, growing quickly and expanding its geographical scope.
Alas, Applebee’s is a casual dining establishment and, as previously covered, casual dining is struggling. The company notes,
…significant challenges encountered by the Applebee’s brand generally, and specific managerial decisions made on behalf of it by its franchisor, Applebee’s International, Inc. (the “Franchisor”), have negatively impacted the Debtors’ business operations and left them facing near-term liquidity issues.
These numbers paint a stark picture:
For the trailing twelve months ending March 31, 2018,4 the Debtors generated approximately $375.9 million in gross revenue, and $12.6 million of EBITDA, on a consolidated basis, a drop of roughly 60% in two years from the Debtors’ peak of $431.1 million and $31.4 million, respectively, in the twelve months ending March 31, 2016.
60%. Sixty…percent. Y.I.K.E.S. Much of this is attributable to a steep decline in same store sales over a period of years.
It is apparently also attributable to misguided directives from Applebee’s International Inc. (“AI”), the franchisor. Efforts to convert to wood-fired grill platforms and engage consumers with new ad campaigns flopped, despite the additional capital expenditures that those efforts required. In addition,
These difficulties were exacerbated by generally increased food costs, higher minimum wage rates and other labor costs, and increasing rents.
Consequently, the company spent the last year trying to improve operational efficiency and reduce operating expenses. It (and its agent Hilco Real Estate LLC) renegotiated leases with landlords, shed underperforming locations and negotiated with the corporate overlords to reduce corporate expenses. What it didn’t secure, however, was a long-term definitive agreement with Applebee’s International Inc. (“AI”). Instead, AI indicated that intends to issue a notice of termination of the company’s franchise rights in Arizona and Texas. That, friends, is what you call capitulation.
And the result, friends, is a crash landing into bankruptcy to trigger the automatic stay. Now the company will shed additional leases, negotiate with AI, and determine what options remain for a casual dining establishment that faces a headwinds coming multiple directions.
- Jurisdiction: D. of Delaware (Judge Shannon)
- Capital Structure: $68.4mm debt (Bank of America), $30mm (BMO Harris Bank NA)
- Company Professionals:
- Legal: Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP (M. Blake Cleary, Kenneth Enos, Robert F. Poppiti, Jr., Justin H. Rucki, Tara C. Pakrouh)
- Financial Advisor: Mastodon Ventures Inc.
- Real Estate Advisor: Hilco Real Estate LLC
- Claims Agent: Prime Clerk LLC (*click on case name above for free docket access).
- Other Parties in Interest: