Howdy, folks, and welcome back to HHR. Today, we’re talking about the state of Luby’s. It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Luby’s on the blog. However, anyone following my social media knows I often stop by Luby’s. So buckle up for some pedantry into what’s been happening at Luby’s. Going back a few years, most of Luby’s troubles seem to have started when they began purchasing other chains. The two best-known buyouts were Fuddruckers and Cheeseburger in Paradise, which occurred within about a year of each other. Fuddruckers would require a lot of work to bring the entire chain up to the same level, and Cheeseburger in Paradise would never be well integrated into Luby’s existing operations. In 2018, to help focus on a massive turnaround project for Fuddruckers, Luby’s would convert their remaining CIP locations into Fuddruckers to help unify the brand and presumably reduce overhead costs. We in Houston would see the most immediate effect of this turnaround, like locations adding self-ordering kiosks, wild game meats, and new desserts. We would also see new locations, including a few with drive-thrus. Luby’s would even be involved in colocating new restaurants and even selling Fudds burgers and wedges at certain locations. Everything seemed to be going well here, and the next step was to expand this concept to Fuddruckers’ core markets, which would be costly. This had the unfortunate timing of occurring just before the pandemic, which would greatly impact the core Luby’s cafeteria business. At this point, the company had three main components: the Cafeteria business, Fuddruckers, and Food Service. All three were affected by strict lockdown operations in many of Fudd’s key markets, a suspension of Food Service business to schools and commercial campuses, and the woes of Luby’s.
While in 2024, it’s easy to picture eating at a Cafeteria once again, there was a point in 2020 when it didn’t seem likely, specifically around June, the first time analysts predicted Luby’s might fail. With lots of money dumped into the update of Fuddruckers and an unsure future of cafeterias, Luby’s Inc. could not obtain financing. The owners would quietly shop the company around to potential buyers, but unable to find any, Luby’s decided to begin liquidation rather than go through bankruptcy. Luby’s would first sell off Fuddruckers, which is a story of its own. Luby’s would also begin closing cafeterias while selling properties they owned. To keep the company going, however, a core operation of restaurants was maintained on what was likely a tiny fraction of its original budget. In a difficult time, the cafeteria chain soldiered on until late 2021 when entrepreneur Calvin Gin purchased the Cafeteria Chain from Luby’s Inc. He planned to purchase only 35 locations but would agree to operate 13 other locations that Luby’s Inc. still held the lease to. The plan was successful, and Luby’s Inc. finished its liquidation, becoming LUB Trust, a self-liquidating trust meant to dispose of the remaining properties. This has been the cause of all known closures since the buyout and is why the Cypress location is not of concern. It has been on the market for years, and BJ’s actually has apparently had to let Luby’s lease expire before they can take over. While at least two more locations are expected to close, the future of Luby’s seems to be steady for the time being. Luby’s still has two locations along 290, closer in to town.