Flynn Adds To His Taco Bell Collection


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Bell American Group didn't need long to become one of Taco Bell's largest operators. The subsidiary of Flynn Restaurant Group has acquired the 62-unit Gateway Bells out of St. Louis from Don Ghareeb. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition gives Bell American 138 locations, and adds $80 million in sales, making Bell American Taco Bell's fourth largest operator. The deal also gives Bell American a dominant position in a market, St. Louis, that is just three hours away from its Indianapolis headquarters. Charlie Brown, president of Bell American, will oversee both markets along with his director of operations, Sarat Koneru, said Greg Flynn, CEO of Flynn Restaurant Group.

The deal also continues Flynn Restaurant Group's impressive expansion. It is already the largest restaurant franchisee in the country, and with this acquisition he will oversee restaurants that last year had $1.3 billion in sales, including the Applebee's his company operates through Apple American Group.

Flynn first got into the Taco Bell business with the acquisition of Indianapolis-based Southern Bells late last year.

"Every function is well executed—menu development, new product introduction, marketing, social media," Flynn said of Taco Bell. "Also, all that goes into operations, new store development, training. They provide a very, very high level of leadership. They occupy a dominant position in the segment. It's not like you can benchmark their performance against their competitors."

And Taco Bell has been hitting on all cylinders lately, thanks to innovative products such as the recently introduced Fiery Doritos Locos Taco flavor, and its Cantina Bell menu that gave it inroads into more premium diners. "It's a very clever strategy," Flynn said. "It helps drive affirmative traffic, and it stops the veto vote."

Ghareeb is the former owner of Tacala, Taco Bell's largest operator. He had sold the rest of the Tacala markets to the private equity group Altamont Capital late last year.

(Editor's note: This story has been updated from a previous version, which had said that Flynn bought the restaurants from Tacala and Altamont.)

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