Need To Sell?

Wellspring Capital Management firm took Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., the chain of drive-through restaurants, private in 2006 in a $177.4 million deal, or about 6.6x its projected 2006 EBITDA, according to Thomson Reuters data and Buyouts archives. Almost six years later, the New York-based turnaround firm continues to hold the company, based in Tampa, Fla.

At the time Wellspring Capital bought the company, it had about 793 locations and was under pressure from some analysts, who said it was not growing fast enough, according to press reports from the time. It appears it has made some headway in the growth department, particularly in large cities, despite a severe recession that’s crippled many companies in the restaurant industry.

Soon after taking over the company, Wellspring Capital installed as CEO Rick Silva, formerly a 13-year executive at Burger King, where he led efforts to improve restaurant operations and improve customer satisfaction as senior vice president of franchise operations, according to Capital IQ. At Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Silva reportedly set up new systems to promote more consistent food quality, and oversaw market research to get a better grasp of the company’s customers in an effort to expand products and boost store growth.

The company posted $660 million in sales in 2008, up $11 million from 2006, which a growth rate that beat the industry average, according to 2009 interview with Silva in the St. Petersburg Times.

In 2010, the company launched a new “Cold Creations Menu” that features shakes, cones and sundaes. In February 2011, the company announced it had signed agreements with four franchisees to develop 12 new restaurants over the next several years in Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore and in the Bronx, New York City. That announcement also states that the company is “seeking to add several new development agreements in key markets such as New York, Boston, Charlotte, Providence, and Orlando.”

The company has also launched a new digital campaign that features a Web site, a “companion mobile web experience,” and a social media strategy employing Facebook and Twitter, according to the company.

Today Checkers has more than 800 franchised and company-operated locations across 27 states, according to Wellspring Capital’s Web site. Its sales may have sagged however: Wellspring Capital’s Web site also says the company generates “more than $620 million in annual sales.” That’s $40 million less than the 2008 sales mentioned above, though it’s unclear how up-to-date Wellspring Capital’s Web site is; the company may also have sold off some assets.

Carl Stanton, a partner who helped lead the investment for Wellspring Capital, did not respond to requests for comment.