7 restaurant chain bankruptcies that rocked the industry in 2021 – eat this, not that


After plaguing the restaurant industry for much of 2020, bankruptcies persisted through the first half of 2021, affecting not only casual and full-service restaurants, but fast food chains as well. Many brands that survived 2020 through the skin of their teeth struggled to regain a foothold in 2021 amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, declining sales, supply chain issues and the rapid changes in consumer behavior. Under growing debt, more than one bowed – either by seeking debt protection in a Chapter 11 case or by finding an investment firm to buy them out in the event of insolvency.

While not as numerous or as the fast food bankruptcies of 2020 – which affected brands as diverse as Chuck E. Cheese, Le Pain Quotidien and Wendy’s – 2021 has had more than its fair share of restaurants.

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Cici’s Pizza was showing signs of decline long before the pandemic. Between 2017 and 2019, the Texas chain’s system-wide sales fell from $ 443.3 million to $ 393.9 million, a decline of about 10%. The pandemic further complicated matters, and in 2020 Cici’s income fell an incredible $ 100 million, resulting in a net loss that year of $ 2.7 million. The chain filed for bankruptcy at the end of January this year, announcing the transfer of ownership of the company to D&G Investors. The chain is currently trying to regain its former glory with the new parent company.

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jack in the box
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Jack in the Box may have performed well during the nationwide pandemic (the company recently reported 13.1% sales growth this year). Region by region, however, is another story. One example is the Conquest Foods LLC franchisee, based in St. Louis. The 70-unit company, along with two affiliated groups, filed for bankruptcy in mid-February, seeking Chapter 11 debt protection and reporting liabilities of between $ 10 million and $ 50 million.

gold corral restaurant
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Like other buffet restaurants, Golden Corral has been hit hard by the pandemic. The chain’s largest franchisee went bankrupt in 2020 and closed several stores. Its second largest, Platinum Corral, was not far behind, declaring bankruptcy in mid-April 2021. At the time of filing, the 28-restaurant company was in debt of $ 49.4 million, of which $ 6.7 million was dollars in paycheck protection program loan repayments.

exterior of the casa bonita in lakewood
Rebecca H./Yelp

In addition to fast food chains, the pandemic has continued to decimate casual and full-service restaurants. And fan favorite Casa Bonita was one of the casualties. A popular Colorado establishment – offering its customers a unique combination of casual dining and tropical-themed live entertainment – the restaurant was forced to close at the start of the pandemic. Her parent company filed for bankruptcy soon after, filing for Chapter 11 debt protection in mid-April 2021. She revealed in her filing that she had $ 4.4 million in liabilities and less than $ 3.7 million in assets. However, the restaurant had a happy ending – it has since been acquired by the creators of South Park.

burgers and fries
Meatheads Burgers / Facebook

Chicago-based hamburger chain Meatheads had a difficult 2021 as parent company Crave Brands filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early April. Shortly thereafter, however, one of Crave Brands’ major creditors challenged the filing, claiming Crave had only filed for protection as part of a “coup… to stay in charge”. The companies have since found a compromise, with Crave Brands ending its bankruptcy filing and taking over the operation of the Meatheads franchise.

hometown buffet
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Fresh Acquisitions LLC, owner of popular regional brands like Ryan’s, Hometown Buffet and Tahoe Joe’s, filed for bankruptcy in April, listing liabilities of $ 10 million to $ 50 million. The company received a $ 3.5 million loan from VitaNova Brands, a holding company overseeing the management of some of Fresh Acquisitions’ brands. Going forward, Fresh Acquisitions plans to focus on developing its top performing brands, including Furr’s AYCE Marketplace and Tahoe Joe’s. The future of the other brands inherited from Fresh Acquisitions remains, according to a spokesperson for VitaNova, “up to the courts”.

daily grills
Johanna S./Yelp

Grill Concepts Inc., the parent company of the west coast brands Daily Grill and Public School on Tap, declared bankruptcy on April 28, 2021. In its filing, Grill Concepts announced that it had implemented “drastic measures to cost reduction ”to get his businesses back up and running. The company closed three Grill in the Alley restaurants permanently and put the kibosh on a number of underperforming restaurants scattered across Florida, Colorado and California, rejecting their leases. The company hopes the bankruptcy reorganization will help it find “a fresh start and preserve the jobs of …[Grill Concepts Inc.] Members of the team.”

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