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Earl Finalizes Purchase of Brio and Bravo Brands

Written By Scott Joseph On June 12, 2020

Earl Enterprises

Robert Earl and his company Earl Enterprises finalized Wednesday the purchase of 45 Brio and Bravo restaurants. The Italian brands were assets in the bankruptcy of Orlando based FoodFirst Global Restaurants.

Earl said that he’d wanted to purchase the restaurants for a long time.

“I was a big customer of both,” Earl said by phone Thursday from his home in Windermere. “Back in 2018, [I] started to buy their stock [and] had it in mind to make a bid for them,” he said. “And before we had the opportunity, someone made a very large bid for it.”

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That would have been Winter Park resident Brad Blum, who founded FoodFirst in May of 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. FoodFirst purchased the Brio and Bravo brands – the only restaurant brands the company owned – for $100 million, and Blum, serving as the company’s CEO, moved the company to downtown Orlando later that year. Blum stepped down as FoodFirst’s CEO earlier this year but remained a co-owner. Steve Layt, a former president of Applebee’s, took over as CEO.

“We waited for the opportunity,” Earl said, “and [the company] got in some trouble and we’re now the proud owners.”

EarlEarl has taken possession of 45 restaurants for a reported $29 million. The number of restaurants may grow depending on negotiations with landlords across the country. At the time it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, FoodFirst had closed 71 of its 92 locations. When it first acquired the brands in 2018, there were 110 locations in 32 states.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me” said Earl. “They’re all synergistic with what we do and we’re just excited about having these as part of the company now.”

Among the other brands owned by Earl Enterprises, which is also based in Orlando, are Planet Hollywood, Earl of sandwich and Chicken Guy!, a quick-serve operation Earl opened in partnership with Guy Fieri. He also owns Buca di Beppo and Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant.

“I like both of the brands,” Earl said of his new acquisitions, “and I plan to restore them very quickly to their old glory.”

He said that he’s looking for a location in Central Florida to open a Bravo. One had previously existed, at the Dellagio Plaza on Restaurant Row, but closed a few years ago. Earl might consider reopening there if that space wasn’t intended to be the new Norman’s.

He said he’d also like to open one of the brands in Winter Park. The area’s first Brio, which was located at Winter Park Village, closed just prior to the bankruptcy filing.

A Brio at Mall at Millenia is the only remaining restaurant locally.

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