Jennifer D. Duell is on special assignment for

DALLAS-The locally based Taco Bueno has secured a $45-million loan from a Scottsdale, AZ-based franchise specialty lender intent on completing $3 billion of financing for chain restaurants.

“This is a very sizeable deal in the restaurant industry,” says Steve Schmitz, executive vice president of GE Commercial Finance, Franchise Finance (GEFF), the largest lender for franchised chain restaurants. He tells that the entire deal took about 60 days to put together. The loan allows Taco Bueno to pay off all prior debt, improve cash flow and continue its recent pattern of growth. Although Schmitz declines to share specific details of the loan, he says Taco Bueno will be making smaller payments each month given the lower interest rate.

Taco Bueno, which operates 130 stores in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, has averaged 12% growth since 2001. “They’re a very strong company,” Schmitz asserts. He adds GEFF takes a close look at the management team, concept and market penetration when it evaluates a loan. “This team has a lot of experience in the restaurant business,” he says.

GEFF has done business with Taco Bueno since 2001 when it financed the deal in which Jacobson Partners, who currently own the controlling interest in Taco Bueno, purchased the company from Anaheim, CA-based CKE Restaurants, owners of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. The subsequent success of the company led to a $15-million refinancing in 2002, similar to the current deal in which GEFF took the lead role.

GEFF has more than $12 billion in served assets and serves more than 6,000 customers and more than 21,000 property locations, primarily in the restaurant, hospitality, branded beverage, storage and automotive industries.

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