Monday, September 12, 2011

Rush to Restaurant Real Estate Brings 53% Increase

The Cheapest restaurants in America are luring activist investors who are betting companies from Ruby Tuesday Inc. (RT) to Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. (CBRL) can make more money selling their own real estate than food.

The 10 biggest U.S. restaurants that sell for less than the value of their property, plants and equipment trade at 70 cents on the dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. With the restaurants slumping twice as much as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index this year, firms from Biglari Holdings Inc. (BH) to Carlson Capital LP and Becker Drapkin Management LP are agitating for board seats at eateries with fixed assets that are worth an average of 53 percent more than the companies themselves. Ruby Tuesday has $1 billion of such assets, twice its market value.

The economy expanded 0.7 percent in the first half of this year, the weakest stretch since the recovery began in June 2009. As job growth stalled last month, a RBC Capital Markets survey showed one-third of Americans now plan to spend less dining out in the next 90 days, the largest proportion in almost a year.

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