Parasole Restaurant Holdings, one of the largest owners of restaurants in the region, is being sold to FS Funds, a Minneapolis-based private-equity partnership that already has a small presence in the local food scene.
Parasole owns several well-known restaurants in the Twin Cities, including Manny’s Steakhouse, Salut Bar Americain, Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse, Chino Latino, the Good Earth, Burger Jones and Field Day.
“Parasole is the Twin Cities’ version of Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You restaurants — great food and great service,” said Stephen Cohen, a Minneapolis attorney who focuses on local and national restaurants. “They are a phenomenal influence in this market.”
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
The principals of FS Funds are franchise owners of four local Original Pancake House restaurants. With Parasole, the firm is buying restaurant brands with a variety of settings and price points.
“These guys made it pretty clear that they are into iconic brands and that they are into buying and holding and not flipping them in two years,” said Kip Clayton, Parasole’s vice president of marketing.
The deal is expected to take three to four months to close. Each of the restaurants is its own separate LLC with real estate, leases and liquor licenses to transfer.
“Our alliance with FS Funds offers Parasole the opportunity to continue to grow our brands and for Parasole to remain a Minnesota icon and restaurant industry leader for decades to come,” Parasole co-founder Phil Roberts said in a statement.
Roberts and Pete Mihajlov founded Parasole in 1977 and were instrumental in elevating the Twin Cities dining scene through a succession of notable restaurants. Their first was Muffuletta in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood, and their holdings included a number of high-profile concepts that have since closed such as Pronto Ristorante in Minneapolis and Figlio’s 25-year run in Uptown. “Figlio was such an institution and it’s never been replaced,” Cohen said. “Everything always came out consistently great.”
Parasole-owned Il Gatto succeeded Figlio but lasted less than two years. The company also gave birth to Buca di Beppo and Oceanaire before sending both on their way as independents.
Manny Villafana, the namesake behind Manny’s restaurant, said Roberts and Mihajlov were very generous with their time and resources in supporting local charities including the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. “We used to use the restaurant as a vehicle to help a variety of charities,” he said.
Roberts will continue to serve as CEO. Mihajlov and another longtime partner, Kevin Kuester, will retire, Clayton said. The rest of the senior staff will continue on through the transition.
“The message to our 1,100 employees was continue to do what you do and do it well. These guys are not operators, and they made it very clear in meetings today their goal is to support the senior staff, support the restaurants and do what they can to help us grow at some point,” Clayton said. “Continuity is a big deal, and that came out many, many times.”
Includes reporting by staff writer John Ewoldt.