Seven years after opening his first signature burger restaurant in Orange County, owner Scott Slater said he will sell all six Slater's 50/50 locations, including two in San Diego County.
The restaurants will remain, as will the half-beef/half-ground bacon burgers that have defined the 50/50 concept from the beginning. But Slater, 34, will step down as president of the company as a new owner invests capital into an expansion effort to eventually export the brand beyond Southern California.
Currently, there is a Slater's in San Diego's Liberty Station and another in San Marcos . In addition, there are two in Orange County, one in Pasadena and another in Rancho Cucamonga. Slater at one time had a third Orange County location, in Lake Forest, but that closed last year.
The sale, which hasn't yet closed, comes on the heels of Slater's decision last month to close his 2-year-old S&M Sausage & Meat restaurant on Park Boulevard in San Diego.
In connection with the planned sale, Slater filed with the state of California what are known as WARN notices announcing his intention to lay off more than 700 employees at the six restaurants. Slater insists, though, that the layoffs were required as part of the change in ownership and that the new owner has committed to rehiring all of the employees.
A San Diego State University alum who has lived in the county for most of the past five years, Slater would not discuss the financial stability of the restaurants, noting that some of the 50/50 locations were doing better than others. The Liberty Station outlet, he said, is "killing it."
The move to sell was driven, he said, by a desire to "see my baby grow." The buyer, Elite Restaurants, which has owned a few restaurants in the Los Angeles area, has the resources to finance an expansion, Slater said Wednesday. The possibility of selling his restaurants, he added, arose when his broker was helping him sell the S&M eatery.
"The broker brought it up to me and asked if I was interested in selling Slater's, and I said my ears were always open," he said. "I hadn't given it any serious thought. When you start any company, you always have thoughts about an exit, but I never had a strategic exit plan."
Slater would not discuss the terms of the sale nor would he say whether he will have a financial stake in the company.
In a Facebook post, Slater characterized the impending sale as "by far the most difficult decision I've ever made."
He added, "By bringing in new capital for remodels, fresh ideas and plans to rapidly expand my brand not only in Southern California but also... across the country, I am confident we are walking into the next chapter of Slater's 50/50."
As some of the Slater's eateries are renovated, none will be closed, Slater said. The expansion, he said, will initially be confined to Southern California, with hopes for more San Diego County locations and others outside the state.