TravelCenters of America is selling 41-unit Quaker Steak & Lube for $5 million to an unidentified buyer in the wake of falling sales during the pandemic.
The sale is expected to close during Q1. TravelCenters said the sale is subject to certain conditions and that it “cannot be certain that it will complete this sale, that this sale will not be delayed or that the terms will not change.”
Nonfuel revenues decreased 1 percent year-over-year in 2020, driven almost entirely by the decrease in full-service restaurant revenue. Excluding those casual-dining units, nonfuel revenue grew 7.1 percent.
In Q4, total restaurant revenue decreased from $108 million to $75.2 million, or a 30.4 percent slide. TravelCenters noted that many of its full-service stores remain closed because of governmental mandates and its own precautions in response to COVID.
The company operates more than 240 casual-dining brands across the country. It’s other full-service concepts are Bob Evans, IHOP, Boston Market, Black Bear Diner, Johnson’s Corner, Fuddruckers, “R” Place Restaurant, Iron Skillet, and Country Pride.
TravelCenters purchased Quaker—which had 50 units—out of bankruptcy for $25 million in 2016. At the time, then TravelCenters CEO Tom O’Brien told FSR that Quaker was “a brand that can be built on and built out “and that it was “a great brand with a loyal following.”
After purchasing the chain, TravelCenters poured about $5 million into capital improvements, from infrastructure enhancements (flooring, fire codes, electrical, and so on) to new chairs, tables, TVs, restrooms, plateware, floors, and sound systems. It also refurbished company-owned locations and boosted internal operations through an upgraded POS system. TravelCenters also hired Lance Matthews as corporate chef and corporate beverage manager in 2016 to revamp Quaker’s menu.
“The idea is for us to have a better street presence,” John Ponczoch, TravelCenter’s former SVP of food operations, told FSR in 2017. “These buildings were all built from the 70s forward. Most of them in the 80s and 90s and there was no money put into the infrastructure or look of them. Most of the brands out there are constantly looking to adapt and change as the customer changes. Nothing had been done with the Quaker Steak & Lubes to keep up with that.”
Additionally, Quaker introduced a counter-service Express Model and a new rewards program. In 2020, the restaurant launched a new all-day menu featuring salad, sandwich, entrée, sauce, and dessert options, and an upgraded beverage program that consisting of new margaritas, sweet tea and lemonade cocktails, and sangrias