The news that the restaurant chains Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale have closed stores and filed for Chapter 7 means that two of the best-known groovin’ 1970s restaurant chains are now, well bankrupt, and many have lost their jobs. But there is a future for these brands. There is valuable intellectual property, and there is no reason why these chains can continue, but be reorganized.
In addition, Bennigan’s Franchising Company, L.P. and Steak & Ale Franchising Company, L.P., the owners of the Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale trademarks and franchise agreements, were not part of the Chapter 7 filing made by its parent company, S&A Restaurant Corp. The 138 domestic and international franchisee-owned restaurants remain open and fully operational.
Bennigan’s Franchising Company, L.P. and Steak & Ale Franchising Company, L.P. will continue to provide high quality support services to its franchisees and remain focused on maintaining and maximizing the value of the franchise brands for its franchisees and their loyal customers, according to press statements.
The future of the brand might entail:
- Perhaps liquidation and sale of the brand names, without a big company reorganization, will allow the new owners of the brand to start from scratch. Frankly, the Bennigan’s leprechaun ads were weird. Good try, but a completely new approach is needed, with a focus on a few basic menu items that can be prepared quickly. How about a headquarters staff of five? A brand manager, a bookkeeper, a franchise relations person and a marketing person.
- Do not change the logo. Do not focus on advertising. An expensive advertising campaign, or a branding campaign where you make struggling franchisees change signage and menus, is a waste.
- Do not over-police the brand. This is a time when individual restaurants will be in survival mode. Making them adhere to things is impossible when you do not have the staff.
- Decentralize the system. Have individual owners of restaurants connect with each other and share via the internet. Remember, it was McDonald’s franchisees who came up with the Egg McMuffin, against the initial wishes of the company.
- Protect the logo and assets of the company. The files of the company will go to court via bankruptcy, but the photos, brochures and history of the company, however trite and silly, are assets that need to be kept.
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