The popular Marie Callender Pie Shop restaurants in Utah will have another new owner by the end of the month, as the parent company has agreed to sell the regional chain to a New York-based joint venture.

Ramada Inc. last month announced the pending sale of its Marie Callender Pie Shops Inc. holding to the Wilshire Restaurant Group Inc. for an undisclosed price. The transaction is expected to close next week.The sale will mark the fourth ownership change in as many years for several Marie Callender restaurants along the Wasatch Front. Six of the seven Utah restaurants are company owned.

The company-owned outlets in Salt Lake and Bountiful were acquired by Marie Callender Pie Shops Inc., a subsidiary of Ramada, last summer in an effort to nurse the eateries back to health after unstable ownership caused the establishments' financial difficulties.

"There haven't been any miracles, but they (the company-owned establishments) are coming along and we have been pleased with their progress," said Dawna Munson, director of coporate communications for Marie Callender's based in Orange, Calif.

Marie Callender opened its first pie shop in Orange in 1964 and entered the Utah market in the early 1970s. The restaurant-pie shop concept has grown into a chain of 152 establishments throughout the western United States, about half of which are franchises.

The restaurant is popular for its pies baked at each restaurant, family-style menu and atmosphere.

"We believe the Wilshire will build the Marie Callender's chain into an even stronger entity in today's restaurant industry arena," said Richard Snell, chairman of Ramada.

Wilshire was recently formed by Hares Financial Corp. and Hampton Ventures Inc., both based in New York City, to acquire Ramada's restaurant holdings. Munson said Wilshire's principals have no experience in the restaurant business and their backround is primarily in financial services. "But they liked what they saw (in Marie Callender's) and plan to keep it intact," she said.

"Marie Callender's has been built around an outstanding concept that has made its name synonymous with quality and service," said Wilshire chairman Steven Shulman. "We expect to continue in that tradition while developing the organization and franchise system over the next several years."

The sale is part of a restructuring of Ramada, where the Phoenix-based concern is selling off its hotel and restaurant businesses, leaving shareholders with interest in gaming properties in Nevada and New Jersey.

On Tuesday, Ramada announced the sale of its hotel holdings to New World Development Ltd., of Hong Kong, for $540 million. In connection with the transaction, Prime Motor Inns of Fairfield, N.J., will pay an undisclosed sum to New World to operate about 600 hotels and motels in the United States under the Ramada and Rodeway names.