Sunday, September 23, 2018
Business

Private equity firm buying Checkers restaurant chain for $525 million

TAMPA — Checkers Drive-In Restaurants is changing hands again.

Private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners on Thursday said it's planning to buy the Tampa-based chain from its current equity ownership for around $525 million.

Oak Hill isn't new to the food industry. The firm previously invested in Burger King and Dave & Busters, as well as retail store The Container Store.

Checkers has over 840 locations in 29 states and the District of Columbia. About 1,200 people in Tampa Bay are employed by the restaurant chain.

Previous coverage: Report: Tampa's Checkers fast food chain to be put up for sale seeking $500 million

Oak Hill was drawn to Checkers for its differentiation and loyal following, Oak Hill partner Kevin Mailender said in a statement.

"This unique concept has consistently outperformed in a competitive market and we see tremendous growth opportunities ahead for the business," Mailender said.

The sale — which was foreshadowed in January in a Bloomberg news report — comes just three years after Sentinel Capital Partners, another private equity firm, bought Checkers.

"What we've done is focused on what's important to them — outstanding food that tastes really different and has a really differentiated flavor," Rick Silva, president and CEO of Checkers, said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

The bay area will likely see an increase in corporate jobs, such as training and accounting, to accommodate Checkers' planned growth. Silva said that number is likely to be in the single digits in the short term, but more job openings are expected as up to three new franchises open up in the area. Each new restaurant typically hires about 50 people.

Checkers, Silva said, is on track to open 65 new restaurants nationwide this year.

The Checkers double drive-through concept was born in 1986 in Mobile, Ala., but the company did not become a national player until moving its headquarters to Tampa Bay a few years later and merging with Rally's.

Related coverage: A Checkers fast food success story takes the road less traveled

Checkers merged with Rally's, a similar concept in the Midwest, in 1999. The two brands share menus, the checkerboard and chrome styling, and red neon signs. Only the name out front is different between the Southern and Midwestern restaurants.

Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] Follow @malenacarollo.

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