Bertucci’s has a new owner, but the rolls and pizzas will remain the same.
After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April, the Northborough-based pizza chain was acquired by Earl Enterprises on Tuesday in a deal valued around $20 million. Earl Enterprises is based in Orlando and owns the Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo, and Earl of Sandwich brands.
Robert Earl, the president and chief executive of Earl Enterprises, said he plans to keep the Bertucci’s operations, including its 4,000 employees, in Boston.
“I’ve had a love affair with Boston that goes back a long way, back from building the Hard Rock Cafe on Clarendon Street, to the Earl of Sandwich on Boston Common,” he said. “I’m going to keep Bertucci’s Bostonian.”
Earl said one of his first plans for the company is to reestablish its footprint in the city. Earl, who is on the board of Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, said that while he was in town last week to give a speech at the school’s commencement, he was already scouting out an additional two or three possible restaurant locations. And he plans to invest more in the buildings Bertucci’s owns.
“You can never give enough TLC to a restaurant chain,” he said.
Bob Luz, chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said Bertucci’s is confronting many of the same issues that other casual dining chains face.
Travelers once valued such chains because they provided a known commodity in unfamiliar places. But that’s changed with the advent of crowd-sourced online reviews and the growing interest in sampling local, independent eateries. The Food Network has also elevated the profile of local celebrity chefs, Luz said, adding to the allure of their establishments.
“It has sort of flip-flopped for independents and chains,” Luz said.
He also noted that many chain restaurants built their businesses around malls.
“Malls used to be a big deal,” he said. “Now malls are crumbling.”
John Gordon, a consultant who specializes in chain restaurant economics, called Earl Enterprises a stable “collector” of restaurant brands. He said the acquisition could be a good home for Bertucci’s, in part because the company could look for synergies with Buca di Beppo. The two Italian-American restaurant brands could streamline methods for buying products or sourcing supply chains, for example.
Buca di Beppo operates 79 restaurants in the United States, mostly outside New England, and nine internationally. Bertucci’s has shuttered some of its lowest-performing restaurants in the last few weeks and currently operates 59 restaurants in the region.
Earl said his ownership offered “a safe pair of hands” for the Bertucci’s brand.
“When I acquired Buca [di Beppo], initially it was a similar situation where we had some problems and we turned it around,” he said, noting that all of Bertucci’s 59 surviving restaurants are profitable.
And for Bertucci’s fans who’ve been fretting over possible menu changes, fear not, Earl said.
“From the rolls to the pizza and some of the pasta dishes, I’m all really happy with,” Earl said. “The brand is still respected, and they’re building on their delivery and catering.”
According to court filings submitted Tuesday, the sale was handled by PHL Holdings, a subsidiary of Planet Hollywood International, Inc., which is owned by Earl Enterprises. The $20 million purchase price includes up to $13 million in debt, $3 million in cash, and a $4 million credit and termination fee that will be paid out to the initial bidder.Jon Chesto of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Janelle Nanos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos.