The Star-Studded Rebirth Of Bennigan's

Correction 10/31/22: An earlier version of this story cited an October WBBM report referencing "the hedge fund that bought the Bennigan's name." Bennigan's CEO Paul M. Mangiamele has clarified to Mashed that he and his wife "own 100% of Legendary Restaurant Brands and ... intend to keep it a private and independent company."

Fans of the adult animated series "South Park" will recall the Season 5 episode "Butters' Very Own Episode," in which young Butters Stotch expresses joy over going to Bennigan's, remaining blissfully ignorant of the insanity that surrounds him. It may surprise some fans to learn that Bennigan's is a real restaurant chain, rather than just a product of the twisted world of South Park. In fact, it's a restaurant that seems to be coming back on the rebound from the brink of failure. 

Bennigan's, a product of Dallas restaurateur Norman Brinker in the '70s (per Kiplinger), billed itself as a restaurant serving "Irish hospitality," a place that defined itself not just by being another casual sit-down restaurant but through its unique "flair." As this commercial from 1988 shows, Bennigan's marketed itself as a place where the harsh rat race of the world could be left behind and enjoy a party-friendly atmosphere. For what it's worth, the restaurant chain seemed to be doing pretty well for itself — at least until 2008, when Bennigan's shocked everyone by applying for bankruptcy (per Reuters). 

The reasons for Bennigan's collapse are several: lack of interest from younger generations, a failure to catch up to the times, the decay of the famous hospitality, and so on. It seemed that Bennigan's would soon join a long list of beloved chain restaurants that completely disappeared. Until, like a phoenix from the ashes, Bennigan's rose again.

Bennigan's is making a comeback

According to a 2012 report from BizJournals, following the 2008 bankruptcy, Bennigan's seemed to be getting itself ready to get back on the road to recovery. The restaurant chain planned to become more "chef-focused" and create a new menu using old favorites and new items. The company even planned to introduce new restaurants across the country, showcasing its rather bold plans to return to its former glory. 

What was perhaps the biggest boost to Bennigan's return was the fact that it (or at least one of its locations) played an integral part in a movie. According to FSR, the 2022 film "About Fate," starring Emma Roberts, features Bennigan's throughout the film, showcasing the restaurant's famous sandwiches, desserts, and drinks. The restaurant was a closed Bennigan's, but the producers worked carefully with Bennigan's owner Paul M. Mangiamele to refurbish it into a pristine restaurant, including breaking out old paraphernalia and decorations from storage. 

While some believe that nostalgia could help sell the restaurants to a new generation, others suggest that Bennigan's avoid the cliche use of "nostalgia-baiting" and focus on a new specific niche to better serve customers. All in all, Bennigan's seems to have garnered a lot of interest for a company that was presumed to have failed over a decade ago.

Time will tell if one day, we'll all enjoy a deep-fried Monte Cristo sandwich together.