Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc. has hired Piper Jaffray & Co. to advise the casual-dining operator on a possible sale, the company confirmed on Monday.
Jen Gulvik, Houlihan’s senior vice president of marketing, however, declined to offer details on the process or any possible transaction.
Leawood, Kansas-based Houlihan’s Restaurants, which includes the namesake brand as well as Devon Seafood Grill, Bristol Seafood Grill, Braxton Seafood Grill, Chequer’s Seafood Grill and J. Gilbert’s Wood Fired Steaks, has been owned by private equity firm Goldner Hawn Johnson Morrison since 2006.
Goldner Hawn officials did not respond to press requests. The firm’s website indicates that Houlihan’s operates or franchises 101 restaurants.
According to The Deal.com, Houlihan’s was up for auction with first-round bids due by the end of April. The article speculates that possible bidders could include Buffalo Wild Wings, which said last month it might consider a possible acquisition.
Buffalo Wild Wings officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reports also speculate that a sale of Houlihan’s could be valued at close to $100 million, if the chain sells for 5.5 to 6.5 times estimated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, of about $15 million.
For the fiscal year that ended in September, Houlihan’s had net systemwide sales of $248.3 million, representing a decrease of 3.16 percent from the prior year, according to Nation’s Restaurant News Top 200 data.
Revenues for the year were $143 million from company-owned locations, initial franchise fees and royalties — virtually flat compared with the prior year.
The company owns 31 Houlihan’s and another 48 are franchised. Of the secondary brands, the company operates five J. Gilbert’s and nine of the seafood concepts.
Restaurant companies have been trading hands in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. said it has agreed to go private in a $1.1 billion deal with equity firm Centerbridge Partners L.P.
Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. also said this month it will explore strategic alternatives, including a possible merger or sale. Benihana Inc.’s board approved a similar move to explore strategic alternatives in March.