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DALLAS-Under a new franchise agreement with Brinker International, HMSHost will develop 26 restaurants in various airports and toll roads across the United States. Brinker’s brands to be expanded include Chili’s Grill & Bar, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.

“HMSHost has long been a leader in travel dining, and through this relationship we will continue to leverage our franchise development, providing guests with convenient locations to experience our portfolio of restaurants,” said Chuck Sonsteby, CFO of Brinker International, in the press release annoucing the deal.

This is not the first agreement between the two companies. A wholly owned division fo Autogrill S.p.A, Bethesda, Md.-based HMSHost has been a Chili’s franchisee since December 1995. It now has 44 restaurants across the United States, including a 3,400-sf unit at Los Angeles International Airport. In November 2004, HMSHost opened its first Macaroni Grill franchise at Orlando International Airport.

“We are very pleased to continue our excellent relationship with Brinker International. We look forward to developing restaurants from their world class portfolio of brands at our travel venues well into the future,” said Pat Carroll, vice president of Branded Concept Portfolio for HMSHost in the same announcement.

The agreement continues Brinker’s goal of slowing company-owned unit growth, while expanding its franchised restaurants. About 35% of the chain’s restaurants will be franchised as of next year, and Brinker has established a goal of 40% franchised restaurants by 2010.

HMSHost also has been growing, acquiring FoodBrand LLC, which provided food and beverage concessions at airports and nine shopping centers, from Mills Enterprises and Panda Express for $13.3 million in July.

Brinker International owns or franchises more than 1,800 restaurants in 24 countries. Its restaurant brands include Chili’s Grill & Bar, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina and Maggiano’s Little Italy.

HMSHost operates in more than 100 airport locations around the globe, including 19 of the 20 busiest airports in North America. Autogrill has more than 1,050 locations (including 163 airports and 689 motorways) in 33 countries.

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