W. R. Grace Will Sell 124 Units in Restaurant Group

Times Staff Writer

One year after an acquisition binge, W. R. Grace & Co.'s restaurant group has decided to scale back by selling nearly 15% of its weaker operations, primarily in the coffee shop sector.

The Irvine-based division of the New York chemical giant expects to sell 124 restaurants in fiscal 1986, which lost a combined $5 million last year, said Charles H. Erhart Jr., vice chairman and chief administrative officer of W. R. Grace.

That is about the same number of restaurants that the company has sold over the past five years combined. About 80 of the restaurants to be sold are coffee shop operations--such as Coco's, jojos and Carrows--scattered in markets outside of California.

Erhart downplayed the significance of the sale, which he said could be worth $30 million. "We're not selling one of our chains or anything like that. We're simply culling out the restaurants that haven't done so well. This is a natural process in the restaurant business, just as natural as polishing silverware."

Industry analysts say the sale does not signify any departure by Grace from the restaurant business. In fact, some say they expect Grace--which currently has 845 units--to use the money to purchase yet more restaurants.

"I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Grace turn around and buy some other restaurant chain," said Ward P. Lindenmayer, analyst at S. G. Warburg, Rowe & Pitman, Akroyd Inc. in San Francisco.

In 1985, W. R. Grace spent nearly $250 million in purchasing 255 restaurant properties, said Anwar Soliman, Grace's executive vice president and president of the restaurant division.

He noted that, with fiscal 1985 net income of $20 million, the restaurant group was one of the few Grace divisions to show improved profits, up 12% from the year before.

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