Arby’s has sold 42 company-owned locations in Seattle and Portland, Ore. to Tony Lutfi, president and chief executive at Marlu Investment Group.
As part of the sale of the Northwest U.S. locations, Lutfi has agreed to redesign 17 of the 42 stores and will open five new Arby’s stores during the next several years. The deal was finalized on Nov. 13, but Lutfi declined to release the financial details of the sale.
Lutfi, who has been in the restaurant business for 33 years, owned one franchised Arby’s location immediately prior to the purchase but owned 28 Arby’s units prior to 2001. Then, he said, during the past 10 years, he sold off those Arby’s properties to pursue other brands.
“I’ve been involved with the brand since 1988, so I’m not a stranger at all [to Arby’s],” he said. “I think the brand is unique. I think it attracts a unique type of customer. Their loyal customer is probably as fanatic about the brand as I am. When I exited years ago, I always knew that one day I was going to return.”
He said that new management at Arby’s, positive earnings reports, and the company’s 2011 acquisition by Roark Capital Group for $430 million, signaled that the brand was ready to reemerge. “All that combined, to me, was an indication that things are turning around and turning positive,” he said. “The things that they’ve done in the last two years plus have just been great things.”
The sale of the 42 units is part of a larger strategic plan for Arby’s. In July, Arby’s President Hala Moddelmog told Nation’s Restaurant News that the company planned to refranchisea “handful of select markets around the country.” The company’s strategic plan also included new advertising campaigns and new menu items.
In July, Arby’s sold 51 company-owned units to Sun Holdings Inc., a multi-concept franchisee based in Dallas. The sale was the first “of any significance” Arby’s had performed since being acquired by Roark Capital, Moddelmog said. At the time, 70 percent of Arby’s locations were franchised and 30 percent were company owned and operated.
Lutfi’s Sacramento, Calif.-based Marlu Investment Group also franchises Jack in the Box, Sizzler, Church’s Chicken and Little Caesars restaurants. With the addition of the 42 Arby’s locations, the company now franchises more than 120 restaurants.
Arby’s has more than 3,400 restaurants systemwide.