Chattanooga-based Krystal restaurant chain up for sale

Chattanooga-based Krystal restaurant chain up for sale

August 3rd, 2011 by Ellis Smith in News

Krystal on Lee Highway

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Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Pam Killelea serves a customer at the Krystal restaurant off Signal Mountain Boulevard on Friday.

Krystal logo

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The Chattanooga company known for its small, steamed burgers is exploring a sale, the company announced today.

The Krystal Co., which owns or franchises 364 stores in 11 states, said it has retained a investment firm to find a buyer for the Chattanooga-based restaurant chain.

Krystal CEO Fred Exum said the company is seeking a new investor to take the company forward.

"The target is to deliver an attractive exit for current shareholders who have been tremendously supportive over the past 14 years, while also establishing a solid platform for our employees to further expand the brand by continuing to serve our loyal customers," he said.

Port Royal Holdings, started by former Krystal President Phil Sanford who now heads Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, purchased the company out of bankruptcy in 1997. Krystal expanded to more than 420 stores in 2002, but closed stores and laid off employees during the recession.

Overall, Krystal has seen "significant growth since 1997," Exum said, leaving the brand "well-positioned to continue its momentum."

The company, founded in 1932, has more than 7,000 employees. It is unclear what effect, if any, a sale would have on jobs at the company's Chattanooga headquarters.

"We have been extremely successful over the last 14 years, which is primarily due to the hard work of all levels of our management team," Exum said. "Krystal is growing and we are excited about the future opportunities for the brand."

Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray, an international investment and asset management firm, will work with Krystal during the sale.

"The brand is well-positioned to continue its momentum and further leverage its historical equity and strong operational performance, presenting a compelling opportunity for a new financial sponsor," Exum said.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.