Ignite Restaurant Group to sell Romano's Macaroni Grill at big loss

Ignite Restaurant Group to sell Romano's Macaroni Grill at a huge loss for $8 million in cash

After only two years of ownership, Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. said Thursday that it would sell Romano's Macaroni Grill to Phoenix-based Redrock Partners for about $8 million in cash.

The deal marks a huge loss for Houston-based Ignite, which bought Romano's in 2013 for $55 million in cash from private equity firm Golden Gate Capital.

Romano's Macaroni Grill, founded in 1988, has about 150 restaurants nationwide, including 26 locations in California, and a handful outside the U.S.

The sale was in the best interest of Ignite and its shareholders, said Ray Blanchette, chief executive of Ignite.

"We continue to believe in the underlying strengths of the Macaroni Grill business," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the brand was unable to deliver, in a timely manner, on the milestones we established."

The restaurant chain has tried to differentiate itself from other Italian eateries with opera-singing waiters and "honor system" house wine, under which customers self-report how many glasses they need to pay for.

Romano's has annual revenue of about $300 million in the U.S., Redrock Partners said.

Ignite plans to focus its resources on its two other restaurant chains, Joe's Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern & Tap, Blanchette said.

The deal is expected to close in 30 days.

Redrock Partners was recently founded by the current president of Romano's Macaroni Grill and two other partners.

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