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Galatoire's restaurant sells majority interest

By Mary Foster
Associated Press Writer / December 10, 2009

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NEW ORLEANS—Galatoire's Restaurant -- which for more than 100 years has been serving fine Creole cuisine in New Orleans' French Quarter -- is no longer solely owned by the founder's family.

The restaurant announced Wednesday that the majority ownership had been sold to businessmen Todd Trosclair and John Georges who have no previous restaurant ties.

Trosclair, the owner of All Star Electric Inc. in LaPlace, said he was invited by the Galatoire family to discuss the deal about six weeks ago. He said he bought 75 percent of the restaurant on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Georges called him and asked to get in on the deal, said Trosclair.

"Who wouldn't want to be part of a wonderful tradition like this?" he said.

Trosclair said he sold the majority of his interest to Georges, although Georges does not own a majority of the restaurant's stock.

"He's the largest stockholder, but not a majority stockholder," Trosclair said. "I will be the chairman of the board."

Georges is chief executive of Georges Enterprises, a business group that includes grocery distribution, offshore marine services, food service and investments. He qualified on Wednesday to run for mayor of New Orleans. In 2007, he ran unsuccessfully for Louisiana governor.

The restaurant sale also included Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge.

Trosclair would not disclose financial details of the deal.

"Our tradition and heritage is what makes us what we are," said Melvin Rodrigue, chief operating officer of Galatoire's. "And we have been assured there will be no change in the trout amandine."

Galatoire's, founded in 1905, had been owned and operated by a board made up of 32 descendants of founder Jean Galatoire.

"I think when you get that many people involved in an enterprise it's in everyone's interest to consolidate," Rodrigue said. "The sellers and the buyers are very happy."

Five family members retain minority ownership in the restaurant, one of the oldest in America and named the country's outstanding restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2004.

Although Galatoire's now accepts reservations for its second-floor dining room, the main dining room, by far the most popular, operates on a first-come, first-served basis. That frequently means long lines waiting to get in, especially for the popular Friday afternoon lunch tradition.

Trosclair said he was disappointed to learn that even buying into the restaurant did not give him an edge there.

"This is an unbelievable part of the deal," Trosclair said. "They told me I still have to wait in line."