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Bennigan's Turnaround Hinges on Franchise Success

But a lot of changes needed to happen first.

New restaurants will be smaller, with contemporary design and a more inviting atmosphere, yet have hints of Bennigan's nostalgia. The revamped menu carries both old favorites like the Turkey O'Toole and newer selections that Mangiamele hopes will entice both once-established customers and the younger generation.

Mangiamele, a 30-year franchising industry veteran, has concepts like Salsarita's Fresh Cantina, Dalts Classic American Grill, Carlson Companies (franchisor of Radisson Hotels, Country Inns and Suites, and T.G.I. Friday's) and Sports Clips on his resume.

He's also looking at alternative locations, such as universities and airports, to open Bennigan's On the Fly, a nod to the fast-casual establishments that have taken consumers by storm. Mangiamele says the fast-casual concepts will increase brand awareness and increase points of distribution, where full-sized restaurants won't fit. Currently there is just one opened, but roughly 10 slotted for development over the next 24 months, he says.

"There is a pride factor of our heritage and our legacy. It's a very iconic brand," says Mangiamele. But, "there is a different kind of energy now. It's a different vibe."

"In some circles, people don't know we're still around," he says.

Bennigan's expects to end 2013 with 85 restaurants both domestically and abroad - 18 of which are still around from the old regime. The company so far has agreements for another 35 restaurants in the pipeline.

Mangiamele is confident that his plans will work and even wrote a book this spring, "Bennigan's Return to Relevance ... Bleeding Green 25/8," in which he talks about the turnaround the management team has completed to reinvigorate the brand.

"When you're a franchisor you have to make a decision where do you want to deploy and direct your resources. Is it to spend an inordinate amount of time on your own company operations or do you want to give that support and resources to the very people that invested money," Mangiamele says. "I owe it to them to deploy my resources to a greater extent to their success."

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