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Perkins & Marie Callender's, LLC, doing business as Marie Callender's, is a restaurant chain with over 75 locations in the United States and Mexico. Its headquarters are in the Marie Callender's Corporate Support Center in Mission Viejo, California, in the Greater Los Angeles area. One East Side Mario’s restaurant in Lakewood, California is part of the chain, a remnant of the period (1997-2000) when the chain owned the ESM concept, purchased from Pepsico.
The type of cuisine served is mainly American, although many of the dishes are slanted towards styles of preparation that resemble Italian, Mexican, French, Cajun, or Chinese. Soups and sandwiches are available as meals or à la carte. The eatery also is known as Marie Callender’s Pies; they are signature items on the dessert menu: there are over 30 varieties available. Pies can be purchased whole or by-the-slice.
Marie Callender’s began in 1948 in Orange County, California, as a wholesale outlet for selling pies to other restaurants. Eventually, Don Callender (who founded the business venture and named it after his mother), opened a retail outlet in Orange, California, gradually adding other food. In later years, a typical restaurant would have a fully stocked bar, or saloon, serving alcoholic beverages. This is in contrast to family restaurants like Denny's or Village Inn, which generally do not serve alcoholic beverages. A salad bar is also a staple.
Marie and her son Don lived in a trailer park off Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach. Marie baked and sold pies to augment the family's income, with Don delivering pies to customers on his bicycle. The business flourished until Don died from complications from a fall. The interiors of the chain's earlier restaurants are decorated with antiques circa 1900, providing a theme that is reminiscent of Victorian England as well as early America. Later restaurants reflect a more modern, clean interior with photos of food.
Don Callender died on January 7, 2009. Don fell at his home and struck his head. He never completely recovered from his fall.
Marie Callender Pie Shops, Inc. was purchased from SKM in 1999 by an affiliate of Castle Harlan, a New York-based private equity firm. In 2006, Castle Harlan merged Marie Callender's with another of its interests, Perkins Family Restaurants. The combined chain, known as Perkins & Marie Callender's Inc. is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. The current CEO of PMCI is restaurant industry veteran Joseph F. ("Jay") Trungale. Former Morton's Restaurant Group chairman and CEO Allen Bernstein serves as non-executive chairman; Bernstein also serves as a director of California-based Cheesecake Factory, Inc.
Other CEOs of Marie Callender's following Don Callender included attorney/investor Roger Mercier (1989-1993), former IBM executive Walter F. Strycker (1993-1994), restaurant finance guru Leonard H. Dreyer (1994-2001) and casual chain executive Phillip Ratner (2001-2006); after leaving Callender's Ratner continued his restaurant career by becoming a 30-unit developer in southern California for Five Guys Burgers & Fries.
In 1994, the restaurant chain was sold to Ramada Inn, then in 2000, to Wilshire Restaurant Group, Inc.. The private equity firm Saunders Karp & Megrue LLP (now known as Karp/Reilly) purchased a controlling interest in 2011.
For years the chain licensed its name for shelf-stable and frozen foods. Various product licenses were included in a sale to ConAgra Foods in 1994 for $140 million. The name Marie Callender's was retained for the food line following the division's sale. In 2010, its Cheesy Chicken & Rice was pulled due to a salmonella outbreak.
On June 12, 2011, 31 under-performing company-owned restaurants closed. The closures came that afternoon, and there were reports of it being mid-meal for some customers. Apparently, a corporate worker came down and they simply got ready to close the doors. The next day, the parent company announced that they have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing a weak economic climate. Comments left on the company’s Facebook page were very critical of the sudden shutterings. A few days later the firm decided to close 13 locations, leaving 74 operating, mostly in California.