East Coast restaurant chain to stay open, saving thousands of jobs

Mere months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection - presaging the company's imminent demise - a New England dining institution will remain open after all. The apparent save is a testament to the continued job growth in Massachusetts, especially within the hospitality and leisure sector.

Restaurant chain Bertucci's was recently purchased for $20 million by the owner of Planet Hollywood, numerous local news outlets reported. Back in April, the Northboro, Massachusetts-based dining franchise filed Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the District of Delaware, leading many to believe that some - if not all - of its 59 locations would close. But at the 11th hour, Earl Enterprises - an Orlando-based firm that owns several restaurant brands in addition to Planet Hollywood - announced its intention to purchase the Italian eatery.

All 59 stores to stay open
In doing so, the nearly five dozen Bertucci's eateries that dot the New England landscape - and five other states up and down the Eastern seaboard - will continue to operate as normal. This is a most delicious turn of events for the over 4,000 employees who work for the franchise, and the millions of people who enjoy its signature cuisine, according to The Boston Globe. Indeed, Bertucci's bills itself as "the original brick oven restaurant," having opened its first dining facility back in 1981.

In May, roughly a month after the Chapter 11 protection announcement, Bertucci's said it planned to close about a dozen locations predominantly in the Bay State - where most of its stores are located - including Taunton, Randolph, Longmeadow, West Springfield, Wayland and Amherst, CBS Boston reported. The company opened its first location in Somerville's Davis Square, where it remains.

Robert Earl, the new owner of Bertucci's, told the Boston Herald he's been a fan of the brick oven pizzeria for many years.

"I consider myself someone who likes to take good brands who might have lost their way a little and restore them," Earl said.

He went on to note that he expects to expand the Bertucci's line by building additional locations, believing the restaurant has more potential that's just waiting to be tapped. However, Earl also informed the Herald that at least for now, he doesn't intend to expand the chain's footprint beyond the 11 states that it currently inhabits. Downtown Boston is one of the places that could see another dine-in facility in the coming months.

Flatbread pizza. Pizza is one of Bertucci's most popular dishes.

Economy, restaurants continue win streak
The continuation of Bertucci's is a check in the "win" column for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of several states that has seen superior growth in job creation for the past couple of years. Government data indicates 2017 was the eighth consecutive year that the Bay State saw more positions open than close. It also has a jobless rate that's below the national average, hovering at 3.5 percent. Last year, appropriately enough, the leisure and hospitality sector logged the second-largest rate of job gains, behind only construction. Professional, scientific and business services industries also performed well.

The restaurant sector as a whole is performing well in terms of finances, posting "modest" sales growth in 2017, based on data from the National Restaurant Association. The industry pulled in a preliminary total of $798.7 billion last year, an uptick of 4.3 percent from 2016's estimate. After adjusting for inflation, the industry posted 1.7 percent of revenue growth on a year-over-year basis.

Additionally, at the regional level, sales uniformly rose in 2017 from the previous 12 months. In New England, for example, diners bought a combined total of $32.9 million at dine-in and takeout facilities, up 4.0 percent, the National Restaurant Association reported. Sales also rose in the Middle Atlantic (3.8 percent), South Atlantic (5.2 percent), East South Central (4.3 percent) and Pacific (5.2 percent) comparing 2017 to 2016.

An 11th hour purchases will save a New England-based food chain from going under.