Greer-based Buffets Inc. becomes Ovation Brands

10/31/2013 8:11 PM

10/31/2013 8:12 PM

Greer-based Buffets Inc. hopes to give its customers a reason to cheer.

The parent company of Ryan’s, Old Country Buffet, Country Buffet, HomeTown Buffet, Fire Mountain and Tahoe Joe’s Famous Steakhouse celebrated its 30th anniversary Wednesday by changing its name to Ovation Brands.

Community leaders and corporate employees applauded the change during an unveiling ceremony at the restaurant holding company’s headquarters behind the Ryan’s in Greer.

“We are closing a chapter in the history of this company and opening a new one,” said Anthony Wedo, CEO of Ovation Brands. “It’s fresh, it’s new and it’s exciting. We’re going from a process-oriented to an innovation-oriented enterprise. Instead of maintaining, we’re growing. Instead of closing restaurants, we’re opening them. … We’re creating jobs.”

The company has more than 340 restaurants and 18,000 employees in 37 states across the country. The company said changing its name to Ovation Brands allows it to properly showcase a greater variety of brands.

“Ryan’s and Buffets Inc. have been corporate residents of Greer for a long time,” said Mike Sell, Greer assistant city administrator. “For them to be moving forward represents longevity and a good investment within our community. We look forward to many more years with them here. … This is extremely positive.”

Wedo has made a name for himself as a “turnaround” CEO. He was hired as chief executive in December to rebuild a company with a history of fiscal woes.

Buffets Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008 and emerged the following year. The company again filed Chapter 11 in January 2012 and closed 81 restaurants, or 16 percent of its stores at the time. Buffets Inc. emerged from that filing in July 2012.

In August, Buffets Inc. reported its strongest sales results in the past eight years. Wedo said Ovation Brands will soon open new restaurants in Gaffney and Albemarle, N.C.

The company launched its Main Street concept earlier this year in all seven of its Denver restaurants. The concept features a contemporary food court design, modern artwork and staff focused on exceptional hospitality. A new culinary initiative “Fresh for You” boasts scratch-made and individually plated entrees and desserts. The company supported the changes with an advertising campaign, “Make It Right,” that focused on Wedo’s pledge to provide quality food and service.

Ovation said the campaign has resulted in a double-digit sales increase in the Denver market.

Wedo brought national exposure to his company and to the Upstate earlier this year when he ditched his business suit to participate in the popular CBS reality series “Undercover Boss.” He donned a blond wig and mustache to become Mike Davis, a down-on-his-luck construction company owner.

The episode, which aired two weeks ago, followed his covert journey through his company’s ranks as a cashier, server, dishwasher and dining room manager.

Wedo said he took part in the experience because he knew it was the only way he could truly learn how to re-invent the company.

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