It finally happened. Landry's Restaurants (NYSE:LNY) CEO Tilman Fertitta is swallowing his company whole.

Despite a few near misses over the past year, Fertitta has lined up the financing -- and the board's consent -- to take the company that he founded private at $21 a share. The deal is valued at $1.3 billion, mostly in the form of the $885 million in debt that the leveraged eatery chain was saddled with, though Fertitta already owns 39% of the outstanding shares.

It's about time, really. Investors have had a hard time wrapping their head around Landry's in recent years. Is it a seafood chain? Is it a theme restaurant operator, thanks to its Rainforest Cafe purchase? Is it a casino operator, thanks to its Golden Nugget buy?

I have always liked Landry's, but I do feel that any casual dining chain that receives a healthy buyout premium to be taken private -- like Landry's -- should jump at the offer during these uncertain times. The industry will bounce back. It always does. However, debt-laden restaurateurs like Landry's will be challenged as margins get squeezed between higher food costs and lower disposable income.

Landry's isn't the only chain making news.

  • Several chains have been offering steep price breaks lately, but some are now giving stuff away. Yum! Brands' (NYSE:YUM) A&W was giving away root beer floats at its nearly 700 fast-food eateries yesterday, with no purchase necessary.
  • CKE Restaurants (NYSE:CKR) inked a deal this morning for 25 franchised locations to open in Pakistan over the next five years. Franchised locations don't make as much money as company-owned stores, but they do deliver high-margin royalties with minimal upfront investment. It's also the smart way to play foreign markets. CKE operates Carl's Jr. and Hardee's eateries.
  • Benihana (NASDAQ:BNHN) (NASDAQ:BNHNA) put the "yuck" in teppanyaki with last week's quarterly report. Earnings per share fell by 26%, to $0.17 a share, as comps fell at all three of the company's Japanese restaurant concepts. If anyone at Benihana is listening, the recovery solution is to take the decadent creamy white sauce you serve at your Samurai restaurant and introduce it chainwide. Even if it isn't authentic enough, just call it Samurai Sauce and watch comps climb back. Trust me.
  • Denny's (NASDAQ:DENN) announced that it would be laying off 50 employees, as the chain streamlines with its new emphasis on franchised locations over company-owned units.  

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