These restaurant chains filed for bankruptcy during the pandemic

Key Points
  • Trade groups estimate that up to 30% of restaurants could permanently close because of the pandemic.
  • A report from S&P Global Market Intelligence released on Friday identified 15 publicly traded restaurant chains that are most likely to default.
  • Well-known restaurant chains that have already filed for bankruptcy include CEC Entertainment, the parent company of Chuck E. Cheese; Garden Fresh Restaurants; and Le Pan Quotidien's U.S. arm.

As the coronavirus pandemic upends the restaurant industry, some chains that were already struggling financially have been pushed into bankruptcy. 

Trade groups estimate that up to 30% of restaurants could permanently close because of the pandemic. While independent restaurants are more at risk, dining room closures and consumers eating more at home has also strained chains, particularly those in the casual dining sector.

The Paycheck Protection Program provided many restaurants, including large chains like P.F. Chang's and Five Guys, with much needed funds to continue operating. But coronavirus cases are once again surging, causing governors to once again close dining rooms to customers.

The crisis will likely change the restaurant industry forever. Experts say that the pandemic and related health concerns may prove to be the death knell for buffet-style restaurants, and the once-thriving "eatertainment" segment is under pressure.   

A report from S&P Global Market Intelligence released on Friday identified 15 publicly traded restaurant chains that are most likely to default. Kisses From Italy, a casual dining chain whose shares are trading for 10 cents, topped the list, with a 41.2% chance of defaulting within the next 12 months. Muscle Maker, with a 36.9% chance of default, and Giggles N' Hugs, with a 34.3% chance, came in second and third place.

Starbucks, Denny's and Yum Brands made the S&P list with a much smaller probability of default in a year: all came in under 10%.

But franchisees of large fast-food chains are also struggling. Operators across chains like McDonald's, Wendy's and Yum Brands' Taco Bell received millions in PPP loans. NPC International, Pizza Hut's largest U.S. franchisee, filed for Chapter 11 on July 1 after struggling with its debt burden.

Here are the restaurant chains that have filed for bankruptcy during the pandemic:

CEC Entertainment

A sign is posted on the exterior of a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant on June 25, 2020 in Pinole, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Chuck E. Cheese's parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late June, citing the prolonged venue closures stemming from the pandemic for its financial troubles. The chain had $1.91 billion in liabilities on its balance sheet, as of Dec. 29. The company plans to continue operating as it undergoes the bankruptcy process.

In 2014, private equity firm Apollo Global Management bought CEC Entertainment, which also owns Peter Piper Pizza.

Garden Fresh Restaurants

An exterior view of a closed Sweet Tomatoes restaurant amid the spread of the coronavirus on May 10, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images

The parent company of buffet-style restaurants Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May and closed all of its locations permanently. Garden Fresh had an estimated $50 million to $100 million in liabilities, according to its bankruptcy filing. The following month, the company liquidated its assets.

Le Pan Quotidien's U.S. arm

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask walks past a closed Le Pain Quotidien restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In late May, the U.S. arm of Le Pan Quotidien, PQ New York, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company had planned to file for bankruptcy prior to the pandemic, but restaurant closures nearly caused it to liquidate, according to court filings. PQ New York had an estimated $100 million to $500 million in liabilities when it filed for bankruptcy.

New York-based restaurant operator Aurify Brands bought all 98 U.S. locations of the restaurant and plans to reopen at least 35. 


The logo of restaurant chain Vapiano is pictured at a restaurant in Berlin, on April 2, 2020.
Odd Andersen | AFP | Getty Images

In April, the German restaurant chain applied to start insolvency proceedings in Cologne. The company is publicly traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and has six U.S. locations. When Vapiano went public in 2017, it had a market value of about 553 million euros, or more than $630 million. 

FoodFirst Global Restaurants

West Palm Beach, CityPlace, Brio Tuscan Grille outdoor tables.
Jeff Greenberg | UIG | Getty Images

The parent company of Brio and Bravo restaurants filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April and permanently shuttered 48 out of nearly 100 locations. FoodFirst said it had liabilities of $50,000 or less in its bankruptcy filing.

In June, Earl Enterprises, which owns Planet Hollywood and Earl of Sandwich, bought the two Italian restaurant chains in a deal valued at $30 million and plans to assume the leases of at least 45 locations.

Correction: An earlier version misidentified the source of the report. It was from S&P Global Market Intelligence.It also misstated the market value of Vapiano when it went public. It was worth more than $630 million. 

Experts expect surge in bankruptcies in the second half of the year as coronavirus cases surge