Il Fornaio Franchise Gets a New Owner

Bruckmann Rosser Sherrill & Co. has agreed to sell Il Fornaio, an owner of Italian restaurants and bakeries, to Roark Capital Group, a source close to the deal told Buyouts.

Tracing its roots back to a baking school established in Italy in 1972, Il Fornaio owns and operates 21 full-services restaurants and two bakeries. Most of its restaurants are in California, though it also has outlets in Colorado, Virginia, Washington and Nevada. Its bakeries are in Burlingame and Mirada, in northern and southern California, respectively.

Should the deal close, it will be a long-awaited exit for Bruckmann Rosser Sherrill, which bought the Corte Madera, Calif.-based company in 2001 for about $93 million, according to the firm’s Web site. The company has done at least one major add-on acquisition under Bruckmann Rosser. In 2006, it bought Dallas-based Corner Bakery Café from Brinker International for $72.5 million, according to Capital IQ.

It’s unclear what the deal price is or what Bruckmann Rosser Sherrill’s firm’s return on the deal will be. Executives at Bruckmann Rosser Sherrill declined to comment and executives at Roark Capital and Il Fornaio were not immediately available.

The company would be a logical target for Roark Capital, which invests in consumer and business services companies, with a focus on franchises, food and restaurant businesses and specialty retail, among other sub-sectors. Roark, with $1.5 billion of capital under management, closed its second fund with $1 billion in commitments in February 2008.

Bruckmann Rosser Sherrill, with $1.4 billion in capital under management, targets companies in consumer products and services, restaurants, specialty retail, and commercial products and services. Earlier this year, co-founder Hal Rosser left the firm to start a new firm. Rosser, Bruce Bruckmann and Stephen Sherrill launched the firm in 1995 after leaving Citicorp Venture Capital.

Bernard Vaughan is a Senior Editor at Buyouts Magazine. Follow his tweets @BVaughanReuters.