CLEVELAND, Ohio — Bob Evan’s folksy personality and “down on the farm” food turned a small restaurant into a corporate giant.

Evans, a southern Ohio farmer, built the ubiquitous Bob Evans chain, where the iconic red-farmhouse-style restaurants still offer hearty breakfasts and home cooking.

Bob Evans Farms Inc. announced Tuesday it was selling its more than 500 restaurants to a private equity company, Golden Gate Capital. Columbus Business First reported the San Francisco-based company will pay $565 million, plus the assumption of some debt.

That’s a lot of sausage gravy and biscuits.

“Bob Evans Restaurants is an exceptional brand, uniquely differentiated by its deep-rooted heritage of farm-fresh food and heartfelt hospitality,” Golden Gate Managing Director Josh Cohen said in a statement. “As an independent company partnered with Golden Gate Capital, Bob Evans Restaurants will be well-positioned to sharpen its focus on enhancing the business, with increased flexibility and resources to grow the company for the long-term.”

Here’s a look at Bob Evans over the years.

Bob Evans started making sausage in 1948 at his Rio Grande farm for use in a 12-stool restaurant he ran in Gallipolis, an Ohio River town down the road.

His sausage products became popular, and customers began buying it in 10-pound tubs.

The building in which he made the sausage was built with open ends, at the suggestion of his father, so it could be used as a machinery shed if the sausage business failed, according to the company history.

But it didn’t fail.

In 1953 a group of family members and friends invested together to create Bob Evans Farms.

In 1962 the business opened a small restaurant to handle visitors who were coming to the farm. Originally called the Sausage Shop, it became the first Bob Evans Restaurant. A 134-seat restaurant still exists at the farm, which now is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bob Evans died in 2007. The company now is based in New Albany, northeast of Columbus.

Bob Evans Restaurants grew and spread. The 100th restaurant opened in 1983. The chain Golden Gate has acquired has more than 500 restaurants in 18 states.

The company also produces a broad variety of food products for sale in grocery stores, including about 60 sausage and bacon products.

At the same time the company announced the sale of its restaurants, it also announced it had purchase Pineland Farms Potato Co. of Maine, which will allow it to add shredded and diced potato products to its line.

Bob Evans restaurant sales had been declining, according to Columbus Business First, falling 1.9 percent in fiscal 2016.

In Golden Gate it finds an experienced partner.

The company purchased the struggling 700-restaurant Red Lobster chain two years ago and sales went up. It also owns California Pizza Kitchen, which has more than 250 restaurants.

Bob Evans Farms will continue as a public company and focus on its grocery-store food products.

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