Ryan's closings part of revamp

The Ryan's on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston was among 80 restaurants closed across the nation last week by owner Buffets Inc.

Tyrone Walker

The owner of Ryan's shuttered the buffet chain's longtime restaurant on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston and 80 other dining establishments it owns around the country late last week as part of a bankruptcy reorganization plan.

The move by Minnesota-based Buffets Inc. affected five other restaurants in South Carolina. All were Ryan's locations that had been in Anderson, Georgetown, Greenville, Seneca and West Columbia.

"The decision to close these underperforming restaurants, though difficult, resulted from a comprehensive, store-by-store analysis of financial performance, occupancy costs, market conditions and the long-term strategy of our reorganized restaurant portfolio," Buffets CEO Mike Andrews said.

In the Charleston region, Ryan's continues to operate restaurants on St. Andrews Boulevard in West Ashley and North Main Street in Summerville. Once based in Greer, the dining chain was sold to Buffets in 2006.

Buffets also has other restaurants under the brands Old Country Buffet, HomeTown Buffet, Fire Mountain, Country Buffet and Granny's Buffet. Most of the recent closings affected Ryan's, Country Buffet and HomeTown Buffet, said spokeswoman Melissa Sheer.

The company said the closings, representing 16 percent of its 494 restaurants nationwide, were necessary to satisfy $245 million in debt and will eliminate $30 million in annual interest payments. The move is to increase cash flow and allow Buffets to focus on long-term investments with its core restaurants.

"Reducing our total restaurant footprint by closing unsustainable restaurants will allow the company to focus on improving operations, enhancing our guest experience and making targeted investments that ensure the long-term viability of Buffets," Andrews said.

Buffets said it is seeking better lease rates with its landlords at restaurants across the nation.

"To the extent those leases cannot be modified on acceptable terms, additional restaurant closings may be required," Buffets said in a statement.

The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy reorganization in six months.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 .