P.F. Chang’s Subject To Leveraged Buyout

By Judy Chamberlain

In what will be the largest leveraged buyout of a restaurant chain since the 2010 transaction that brought a $4.2 billion price tag to Burger King holdings, P .F. Chang’s China Bistro is scheduled to be taken private in mid-June when private equity firm Centerbridge Partners pays P. F. Chang’s shareholders $51.50 a share in a  $1.1 billion deal.

The chain, founded by Paul Fleming chef Philip Chiang, first opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1993, offering Western-influenced Asian food at reasonable prices. It owns numerous company stores in the United States and sells licensing agreements in international markets. Fast-casual Pei Wei’s Asian Diner, which originated in Dallas, is part of the mix.   

P. F. Chang’s operates numerous company-owned stores in the United States and also sells licensing agreements in international markets.

Cambridge was founded by former Blackstone Group executive Mark Gallogly and Jeffrey Aronson, who led the distressed investing team at Angelo Gordon & Co.

Although I’ve been following the progress of both P. F. Chang’s and Pei Wei for years and was a guest at the pre-opening press party for the first P. F. Chang’s in California, I wasn’t a fan of either restaurant until recently.

Here inDallas, where the labor pool and strategic placement far outshine some of the company’s largest Southern California stores like the one in Anaheim, across the street from Disneyland, I’ve recently discovered the fabulous happy hour items on P. F. Chang’s menus.

The great selection of dim sum items is good news for Dallas diners; just try and find these babies anywhere else in Texas. P. F. Chang’s has done a wonderful job of presenting real deal dim sum, with appropriate sauces. I’m impressed.

And for a real shocker, PFC serves the best tortillas in Texas, an element of their yummy Korean beef tacos, While Korean beef tacos are a staple of dozens of Los Angeles food trucks, they’re hard to find here with the exception of one or two Dallas Metro trucks and little drive-thru Goghee To Go in Oaklawn.

Nobody – not in L. A. either – though, serves Korean beef tacos on fresh, made-from-scratch, made-to-order tortillas, cooked on a flat top grill that turns them out in similar style to grilling capability of an in-house comal.

At $5 an order (for two), two orders make a meal.

But don’t stop there. Try some of the dumplings, especially the pork-filled, scallion-topped Flaming Red Wontons with sesame soy sauce. PFC comes up a winner with their dim sum; this stuff is right out of a dim sum palace on the Pacific Rim.

The tortillas – this is merely an opinion, not a fact – may have been influenced by what pioneering California restaurateur Larry Cano came up with for his then-revolutionary El Torito Grill concept in Newport Beach’sFashion Island in the early 1990’s.

The dim sum are available at happy hour – or on PFC’s special dim sum lunch menu.

P. F. Chang’s recently remodeled Northpark store is gorgeous, with plenty of adjacent parking. I also love the Southlake location, which for my money serves the only actual Chinese food in the mid-cities. Kudos to both Northpark Manager John Zuffinetti, and Southlake Manager Tim Ertz; while I’d personally hate to lose you from the Dallas area, the company’s stores in other parts of the country could learn a lot from you both.

Judy Chamberlain, a professional restaurant critic since 1983, is also a critically-acclaimed jazz singer. Check out her website.

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Filed under Beef, Chinese, Dallas, Judy Chamberlain, NorthPark, Tacos

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