Il Fornaio Chain Acquired in $81.4-Million Cash Deal

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Connecticut investment firm Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. added another California restaurant chain to its portfolio Thursday, agreeing to buy Il Fornaio (America) Corp. for about $81.4 million.

Fornaio shareholders will receive $14 a share in cash for each share they hold, Chief Financial Officer Peter Hausback. After the transaction is completed, some executives and stockholders will retain a significant stake in the company, which is to be taken private.

The Corte Madera, Calif.-based company operates 24 Italian restaurants with a retail bakery in each store, including several in Southern California. It also has three wholesale bakeries that sell breads and pastries to grocery stores, cafes, restaurants and hotels.


Greenwich, Conn.-based Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill holds a controlling stake in Los Angeles-based California Pizza Kitchen Inc., the Mexican restaurant chains Acapulco and El Torito and the Au Bon Pain Co. bakery cafe chain.

Il Fornaio will continue to be headquartered in Corte Madera, and will operate as a private company. The current Il Fornaio management team is expected to remain in place, according to Il Fornaio President and Chief Executive Mike Hislop.

Shares of Il Fornaio rose $3.38, or 36%, to close at $12.69 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

Key franchises in the so-called casual-dining category of the restaurant market have become popular with investors as the number of Americans eating out continues to grow.

The percentage of Americans who have visited a casual-dining establishment three or more times in a month climbed from 61% in the first half of 1998 to 63.3% in the first half of this year, according to a study of 11 urban markets nationwide by Bob Sandelman, a Villa Park restaurant consultant. The average spending per person during that same period rose 4.6% to $12.39.