published Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Bankrupted Ryan's Steakhouse shuts down 81 eateries

The parent company of Ryan's Steakhouse restaurants filed for bankruptcy and closed 81 locations this week in an effort to restructure about $245 million in debt, the company said Friday.

Buffets Inc., which owns nearly 500 Ryan's and other restaurants nationwide, will close six Ryan's steakhouses in East Tennessee and North Georgia.

"Similar to eliminating an unsustainable debt burden, reducing our total restaurant footprint by closing unsustainable restaurants will allow the company to focus on improving operations, enhancing our guest experience and making targeted investments that ensure the long-term viability of Buffets," said Mike Addrews, CEO of Buffets.

Through Thursday and Friday, Ryan's shut down its Oak Ridge, Murfreesboro and Cleveland restaurants in Tennessee, and closed Georgia restaurants in Calhoun, Canton and Cartersville, according to Melissa Sheer, managing director for Kekst and Co. and spokeswoman for Ryan's.

The closure in Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code affects 3,000 employees nationwide, and between 200 and 300 in the Chattanooga region, Sheer said.

"It's not a great situation, the economy is very difficult right now," Sheer said, adding that Buffets expected to emerge from bankruptcy within six months.

Each store closing will affect between 25 and 50 workers, including managers and part-time staffers, though they will be given an opportunity to apply for work at other restaurants.

Ryan's website on Friday listed only three locations in the Chattanooga area: on Ringgold Road, in Hixson and in Dalton, Ga.

Buffets Inc. purchased Ryan's in 2006, entered bankruptcy in 2008 with about 630 restaurants and 38,000 workers, and emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 with 533 restaurants and 30,000 employees, according to news releases.

Under the latest bankruptcy, the company will employ about 23,000 workers at its various properties across the country, which include Old Country Buffet, Ryans, Hometown Buffet, Fire Mountain, Country Buffet and Granny's Buffet, Sheer said.

Calls to Ryan's restaurants in Cleveland, Tenn., and Calhoun, Ga. were not returned.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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