The new leader of the company that owns Old Country Buffet has a lot on his plate, including tamping down talk that the company might move from its headquarters in Eagan.
"Certainly we are committed to Minneapolis and Eagan," Anthony Wedo, chief executive of Buffets Inc., said in an interview Tuesday. "The message is we're here and here to stay."
In the year since Buffets emerged from a bankruptcy restructuring, the perception that it might move has grown because Wedo, who became CEO in December, is mainly working from a second corporate office in Greer, S.C., which is home to the company's marketing operation, test kitchen and several other departments.
To underscore the company's commitment to Minnesota, Wedo said Buffets will soon remodel and update its Twin Cities restaurants, becoming the second market in which outlets get a makeover in decor and menu. Denver was the first.
"There will be more individual portions as opposed to everything being served in a buffet mass offering," Wedo said. "The company has gone through a lot of difficulty, and that caused some people not to visit us frequently. We want to reinvigorate that."
Before joining Buffets, Wedo had consulted with private equity firms on restaurant industry mergers, acquisitions and turnarounds and owned a firm that was a franchisee of Boston Market in mid-Atlantic states.
He said the privately owned Buffets was profitable when he arrived, but added, "We increased profitability fairly dramatically in the last six months."
"Not too long ago we were coming out of bankruptcy and shrinking the business," he said. "Now we're reinvesting in the business, and we'll open a few new restaurants this calendar year, although not in Minnesota."
There are 14 Old Country Buffet locations in Minnesota, 11 in the Twin Cities. In addition to Old Country Buffet, the company operates about 340 other restaurants under the Old Country brand as well as HomeTown Buffet, Ryan's and Fire Mountain restaurants in 28 other states.
Wedo said that when he is in South Carolina, the Eagan headquarters will be led by Buffets' new chief financial officer, Keith Kravcik, who was most recently group vice president and corporate controller for Supervalu. Kravcik will run finance, accounting, purchasing, information technology and other back-office functions for the company's restaurants, Wedo said.
He said he named Jackie Fiebelkorn, a longtime Buffets administrator, to the new post of director of the office of the CEO and corporate administration, also based in Eagan.
About 130 people work in the Eagan headquarters and 70 in Greer.