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BOSTON-Buca, Inc., the Minneapolis-basedSouthern Italian restaurant group, said it agreed tobuy Vinny Testa’s, a nine-unit concept chain based inBoston. The agreement calls for the nine restaurantsto be bought for about $18 million.

Vinny Testa’s operated eight restaurants in the Bostonmarket as well as one in the Philadelphia market. Theaverage Vinny Testa’s restaurant generates about $3.8million in annual sales and $700,000 inrestaurant-level cash flow.

The company’s strategy is to continue to operate andgrow the Vinny Testa’s brand in Boston and throughoutNew England and to continue to grow the Buca di Beppobrand throughout the remainder of the United States.The Vinny Testa’s concept is expected to add about 40restaurants to the chain, which anticipates ultimatelyoperating about 450 restaurants in the US.

Buca also said it has agreed to double the size of itsmaximum credit facility with its bank group, led byBank of America, going from the current $25 millionmaximum to a new facility with a maximum capacity of$50 million, with a $20 million term facility and amaximum $30 million line of credit.

Buca di Beppo’s comparable restaurant sales trends andnew restaurant sales trends have improve aftersuffering in the aftermath of the Sept 11 attacks.Comparable restaurant sales turned positive in themonth of December. New restaurants’ average weeklysales exceeded $60,000 per week for the first timesince Sept. 11, and average weekly sales are up morethan 40 percent since then.

The Vinny Testa transaction, scheduled to close bymid-January, is subject to the completion of final duediligence.

Buca, Inc. now has 68 Buca di Beppo restaurants inArizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin andWashington, DC.

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