Restaurants continue to feel the brunt of the economic crisis and sadly, the list of well-established restaurant chains that have filed for bankruptcy since 2020 continues to grow. More recently, a beloved pizza chain from the Midwest joined the unfortunate group.
Dynamic Restaurant Holdings, the parent company of Happy Joe’s, filed for bankruptcy earlier this month. Dynamic also operates the Florida-based Tony Sacco’s Charcoal Pizza chain. As a result, company-owned sites will close for both brands.
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Known for its thin crust taco pizza, Happy Joe’s had 42 locations in Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota as of the end of 2021. Tony Sacco’s, meanwhile, is much smaller with only four slots. A total of nine company-owned Happy Joe’s restaurants and two Tony Sacco’s restaurants were listed in the September 2 bankruptcy filing. Among this group, three Happy Joe’s stores and the two Tony Sacco sites have already closed.
But this does not mean that the marks disappear completely. The bankruptcy will not affect franchised establishments of either chain, which represent 90% of Happy’s Joe’s restaurants and 50% of Tony Sacco establishments.
So what led to this decidedly unfortunate turn of events for Joe’s? Dynamic cites the lingering economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with continued rising costs for personnel, supplies and leases. The company is indebted to the tune of 5.3 million dollars spread over two loans. When Dynamic originally purchased a majority stake in both brands in 2017, private equity firm AAVIN Equity Advisors served as the financing partner in the deal by providing these two loans. Dynamic also owes an additional $1.2 million on a separate loan from the seller of Happy Joe’s.
The combination of COVID-19 and high prices “has hampered [Dynamic’s] ability to continue operations with their current footprint and otherwise pay operating expenses in a timely manner,” Dynamic CEO Tom Sacco said in the court filing.
From the outside, Happy Joe’s appeared to be on the rise before this announcement. Compared to 2020, overall sales increased by 13% in 2021. And the first quarter of 2022 saw sales increase by 4% year-over-year, making it the fifth consecutive quarter of positive growth chain. The brand even recently announced its intention to open more than 50 sites in Egypt and the Middle East.
The first Happy Joe’s restaurant was founded in 1972 by Lawrence Joseph “Happy Joe” Whitty, and establishments offer pasta, sandwiches, and sundaes in addition to pizza.
John Anderer is a writer specializing in science, health and lifestyle topics. Learn more about John