Friday, September 25, 2015

Ovation Brands, Owners of OCB - SOLD!

The corporation that owns, Old Country Buffet, Ryans, etc. is Ovation Brands, Inc., formerly known as Buffets, Inc. until the name was changed by FORMER CEO, Anthony Weedo. Yes - former CEO. Within the past year Weedo (you know the guy who was on the television reality show, "Undercover Boss") put out that Ovation Brands was looking to be purchased. In latge August, 2015 it was announced that a Food Management Partners bought Ovation Brands and all of its buffet chains.

I have know about this since just after it took place and have been sitting on the story to try to get more details. I have decided to go ahead and share this with all of you now with the little that I have been able to learn. Let me give you a little pre-sale information that I have also been sitting on.

In early June I was contacted through this site's email link by someone who works for Ovation Brands corporate. He told me that he has been reading this site for years and would like to meet me for lunch at a local OCB and discuss Old Country Buffet. I respectfully declined the offer as I have always wished to remain anonymous and sitting in OCB with an Ovation corporate executive was not going to keep me very anonymous any longer. He understood and shared a few things with me - the most significant of which was that Anthony Weedo was GONE and indicated that some " changes" had been made in their "leadership" team. He went on to share that the little pots of food would be gone from the menu and that they were looking to bring back some of the foods that people who like OCB have missed. He also asked me to share some ideas with him in this regard and how to bring people back to OCB. I have to admit that I did do that but not right away. I waited, discussed it some, and did send back my reply in mid-July. I did not get a response back to date - and I sincerely hope that he did not become one of the "key changes" by that time. Since then it has been no secret that Anthony Weedo was sent on his way and I have received a few emails from some of our readers who keep up with things like this also letting me know.

So Weedo is gone by early June and in two months, the sales offer that he set into motion is taken by a company called Food Management Partners (FMP). Here is what I have been able to find out about FMP. Food Management Partners is a privately held company based in San Antonio, Texas. Prior to the purchase of Ovation Brands they owned 200 restaurants. Now with those from Ovation Brands they own 500 restaurants. Prior to the purchase, FMP owns Furr's Fresh Buffet - a buffet that I have never heard of and none of our readers has ever mentioned in communication with me. They are on Facebook, they have a website, and they have locations (25?) in Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. So FMP is familiar with the buffet business.

The biggest question on everyone (who cares) minds is what is FMP's intentions with all of the Ovation restaurant chains - OCB, Ryans, Hometown Buffet, Country Buffet, Fire Mountain, and a non-buffet restaurant, Tahoe Joe's, that was owned by Ovation. This from one of the FMP exec's - “The buffet business is one with which we are very familiar, and the chance to acquire a category leader does not come along often,” Peter Donbavand, FMP vice president of business development, said in a statement." (from "Nations Restaurant News - Aug. 20, 2015). This sounds hopeful. Unlike the Buffets, Inc (Ovation Brands) take over of Ryans which was intended to put Ryans - a competitor of OCB - out of business, closing many and changing the remaining Ryans into OCB clones, this buyout seems to not be looking to shut down or destroy what they have just purchased - which for those of us who enjoy these buffets - and those who work at these buffets - is a good thing. BUT - and a big BUT here to consider - FMP purchased a restaurant corporation that owned Coco’s Bakery Restaurants and Carrows Restaurants and as reported by "National Restaurant News", FMP immediately closed 149 of these restaurants based upon poor performance and apparently done so suddenly and again, without notice.  Oh boy!

Now, "Nations Restaurant News" reported on August 25, 2015 that there were layoffs of Ovations Brands employees at " the Greer headquarters office and in the Eagan, Minn., support office, where Ovation’s predecessor, Buffets Inc., had been based." Layoffs were done without notice or warning - sound familiar as this was how Ovation went through Ryans and some OCBs. Don't let the term "layoff" fool you - for the most part "layoff" means fired. In the article about this, included is Anthony Weedo - BUT we know that Anthony was given the boot in early June or before - along with other executives. So there is a little confusion here when piecing together what on-site sources have informed us and what later gets reported. Clearly, it looks to be that more have been let go than "key leadership".

So you all now have everything that is to be known to date. Time will tell and I only hope that this is not going to be another scourge of closings of buffets. I know that there are a lot of buffet managers and employees that follow this site, and perhaps those who can will share with me what is happening - or what has happened effecting your buffet and/or jobs. The email link at the side of this page goes directly to me and anything you share will not be used without your permission - and it is always kept anonymous.


Unknown said...

The OCB here in town is a total disaster. Also unfortunately for them there's a decent Golden Corral two blocks away which is always busy. I'd be surprised if the OCB survives.

Anonymous said...

I know you try to be as unbiased as possible, but I would have taken him up on his offer. OCB, when done right, is way better than Golden Corral and I feel like maybe it would take hearing it from someone like you to get something done.

Writer said...

We at this site would love to hear from OCB managers or employees about what is happening at OCBs across the country since this takeover. Reply here or send us an anonymous email through the contact us link on this site.

Anonymous said...

Just as a bit of trivia, the Furr's chain you refer to is the descendant of Furr's Cafeteria, a chain of old-fashioned cafeterias in the Southwest and Great Plains that dates from the 1950s, at least. People of that generation who lived in that region will all remember Furr's. Their business model - the old fashioned pay-per-item cafeteria model - has apparently become obsolete. I'm not sure how long ago they switched to the all-you-want-to-eat model. As I haven't lived in that region for a few years, I don't know about the quality of this small, and shrinking, chain. Love your blog! Thanks!