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Restaurants

Chuck E. Cheese Files For Bankruptcy In Hopes To Survive The Pandemic

After early reports from the Wall Street Journal that Chuck E. Cheese was looking to file for bankruptcy, the entertainment and restaurant chain has officially done so.

Photo: Mike Mozart on Flickr

A press release from CEC Entertainment, Inc., the parent company to the beloved chain, announced the entry into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. It hopes that in doing so, the company can restructure itself to survive the economic hit that the pandemic has levied.

Chuck E. Cheese had been doing okay before the pandemic, as AP reports that store sales went up 3% during 2019. However, the strain of staying closed during the pandemic was a tough pill to swallow for both Chuck E. Cheese and the restaurant industry in general.

Chuck E. Cheese had begun to reopen locations that were closed due to coronavirus, with 266 currently open and more to follow in the coming weeks. It’s hoped that these locations, plus the others Chuck E. Cheese plans to reopen, will stay that way throughout the bankruptcy process.

Franchised locations of Chuck E. Cheese aren’t affected by the bankruptcy filing.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows Chuck E. Cheese to keep running operations while restructuring its organization and financial model to get back on its feet. However, part of the bankruptcy plan, which is approved by a court, may include liquidating some of the company’s assets. This may mean that stores will close in the future, but it’s possible that won’t be the case.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chuck E. Cheese was looking for up to $200 million in loans to stay afloat earlier in the month, which may be enough to restructure and prevent store closures. We won’t know if that’s the case for sure, however, until the bankruptcy court approves a final plan that allows Chuck E. Cheese to emerge from bankruptcy.

The hope is, though, that Chuck E. Cheese won’t have to go the way of Souplantation, who closed all of their locations and began liquidating all of their assets earlier this year.

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Restaurants

Souplantation Is Auctioning Off All Their Restaurant Equipment For As Little As $1

Fans of Souplantation, the buffet-style salad bar and restaurant, were hit with devastating news early in May this year with the announcement that the chain would close permanently due to revenue loss from the pandemic.

We discovered this week, that many of the 97 restaurants have begun auctioning off their kitchen equipment and furniture at an insanely reduced price.

Within these auctions, done individually by restaurants, one could find meat slicers, racks, utensils, and even ovens for a fraction of what they would have sold for at market value.

For example, a Double Deep Fryer can cost upwards of $10,000 to $20,000. A recent closed bid sold one for $585. In that same auction, an entire buffet bar sold for a ridiculous $1.

Sure you might get into a bidding war, but chances are you won’t come out empty-handed if interested.

For those looking to stock their kitchens with some new, slightly used gear, or simply looking for an inexpensive keepsake from Souplantation, and sister chain Sweet Tomatoes, you might want to check out these auctions. A majority of them will end within the next week.

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News Restaurants

El Torito And Chevys Parent Company Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Fans of the full-service Mexican restaurants El Torito and Chevys may want to take a seat. Real Mex (RM Holdco LLC) is entering an Asset Purchase Agreement with an affiliate of Z Capital Group, LLC. This means that the company is planning to sell over its assets as it voluntarily files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

Besides El Torito and Chevys, Real Mex owns a variety of chain restaurants, including Acapulco Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, El Paso Cantina, Who Song and Larry’s, and Las Brisas.

Essentially, reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code allows Real Mex to pass on some of their liabilities to Z Capital Group, according to Reuters.

You can rest easy for a bit, though, as for the time being Real Mex’s restaurants will still remain open to guests as if nothing has changed.

Bryan Lockwood, CEO of Real Mex, said in a statement:

“The support from Z Capital and Tennenbaum will help minimize any disruptions and ensure that the process is seamless for our guests, employees, and vendors. We’re looking forward to completing this transaction as swiftly as possible and emerging from Ch. 11 in a stronger financial position, poised for future growth.”

I remember frequenting El Torito’s Sunday brunch buffet and piling my plate with scrambled eggs, braised meats, sweet corn cakes, and a stack of waffles. Then, I’d wash the meal down with a hearty bowl of menudo. Honestly, it was heaven — making this news a little bittersweet.

Until things take a drastic turn, I’m definitely going to hit up El Torito’s Sunday brunch a few more times. That spread was sweet and you never know what the future holds.

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Hit-Or-Miss Restaurants

Macaroni Grill Files For Bankruptcy, Already Shut Down 1/3 of Restaurants

Romano’s Macaroni Grill is known for its tasty pasta and singing waiters, but with as much joy as is portrayed inside the restaurant, it has also been struggling, and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to NRN.

If you’ve noticed that Macaroni Grills around you started to disappear, you’re not going crazy. They’ve recently closed down 37 of its 116 locations, and is essentially blaming millennials for it, saying they’ve noticed “a trend among younger customers to spend their disposable income at non-chain ‘experience-driven’ restaurants.”

The Italian restaurant said that it had issues with profits, as their sales were decreasing, while at the same time labor costs went up. It also said it had $23 million in secured debt.

The restaurant closings has not gone smoothly, either, as Macaroni Grill is being sued by company landlords over the closures.

The restaurant’s downfall has been gradual, as it has been struggling for years. In 2013, when it still had 210 locations, the company was sold to Ignite Restaurant Group for a mere $55 million. About 2 years later, Ignite sold it to Redrock Partners for a paltry $8 million. By 2015, Macaroni Grill’s value fell by 95 percent, according to past NRN reports.

Even with all its recent trouble, Macaroni Grill was tremendously popular at one point. If you’re a fan of the restaurant, you might want to enjoy it while it’s still around.

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News Restaurants

Joe’s Crab Shack Files For Bankruptcy, Assets To Be Sold Off

Sad news for seafood lovers, Joe’s Crab Shack is reportedly filing for bankruptcy reports Consumerist.

Ignite Restaurant Group announced in a press statement that it is agreeing with Kelly Companies to sell Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern + Tap Brands.

All of Ignite’s subsidiaries, Joe’s Crab Shack included, filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11. This means that Joe’s will have 60 to 90 days to sell their assets.

A silver lining for Joe’s Crab Shack fans during this troublesome time, all 112 locations of Joe’s Crab Shack will remain open during the sales process. In this period, the seafood restaurant chain will still accept gift cards and coupons. If you’ve got em, make sure to spend them as soon as possible.

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Restaurants

HomeTown Buffet Just Filed For Bankruptcy

Hometown-Buffet-Stk-01

HomeTown Buffet’s parent company, Ovation Brands Inc, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday morning. Reuters reports that this will be the second filing made by Ovation in the last four years, one made in 2008 and another in 2012.

Originally known as Buffets Inc, the company had a slew of buffet chains under its belt. This included Old Country Buffet, Fire Mountain, Tahoe Joe’s, Ryan’s and HomeTown Buffet.

The company currently operates about 328 restaurants in the US.

According to the documents filed in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas, up to $50 million in assets and $100 million in liabilities was listed by the chains.

If you’re looking to hit one of these restaurants up for nostalgia’s sake, better hurry.

Photo: HomeTown Buffet

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Hit-Or-Miss

Twinkies Return July 15, So We Can Go Back to Not Eating Them

twinkiereturn

Face it, the Twinkies craze was a little ridiculous. With single boxes selling on ebay for over $200,000 and Facebook fan pages spreading rampantly through the internet soil like viral daisies, the public outcry over Hostess Brands’ demise alone would have been enough to convince any hapless CEO to try to save the company. So that’s what some hapless CEOs from Metropoulos & Co (who owns Pabst Brewing Co.) and Apollo Global Management (whose investments include Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s) did. Following last year’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy and a bit of corporate reshuffling, it appears that Twinkies will finally make their triumphant return to grocery shelves starting next month on July 15 – which will give us plenty of time left this summer to totally ignore them, except when they’re deep-fried at the county fair.

The Associated Press (via Yahoo! News) outlines the breakdown of the Hostess empire: Wonder and Hostess’ other bread brands were sold to Flower Foods. Devil Dogs and Yodels were sold to McKee, which makes Little Debbie Snack Cakes. And investment firm Metropoulos & Co. snatched up Twinkies and a few other Hostess Cakes.

Daren Metropoulos, a principal of Metropoulos & Co., told the Associated Press that the new, barer-boned Hostess Brands LLC has a cheaper costly operating structure than before and that its workers are no longer unionized. He also mentioned the possibility for cross-promotion with Metropoulos’ and Apollo’s other properties.

So while the long-term future of everyone’s favorite cream-stuffed yellow sponge cake is still yet to be seen, it appears at the very least that Hostess is finally back on the right track. As for any residual doubters, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of a possible Ice Cream-Stuffed Twinkie from Carl’s Jr.

H/T Grub Street, AP + PicThx Boston Herald

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Sweets

‘Twinkie Apocalypse’ – How We Killed the Twinkie

So Hostess Brands, the makers of your cherished Twinkies, Ho Hos and Sno Balls, finally went under today. Sadface. But while nearly every other news source is posting up quick DIY Twinkie recipes to help you prep for the impending Twink-pocalypse, we’ve gotta be real for a second. None of you liked Twinkies all that much anyway.

Sure, there’s a Twinkie Facebook page, and yeah, there was Woody Harrelson’s character in Zombieland, but when was the last time you – yeah, you – went out and picked up a pack yourself?

Now before we get too crazy, let me just say this – I don’t blame you. Really, I don’t. Since before the turn of the century, we’ve all had the Atkins and South Beaches and Shaun T’s breathing down our backs, judging us as we peruse the snack aisles of our local 7-11s. And at 300 calories a pack and $1.50ish for two, Twinkies didn’t do much to help themselves survive, either. But the fact nevertheless is this: we did this to ourselves. We, as a collective Super Size Me, P90X, burst-housing-bubble society, effectively killed the Twinkie. Thanks a lot Jared.

As it stands, there is still a chance that someone – anyone – could buy out all of Hostess’s properties and rebuild the packaged pastry giant from scratch , but unless they make a conscious effort to health-ify their products (and really, who would want a “healthy” Twinkie?), chances are it wouldn’t help much.

The way I see it though, all this fuss is just a case of not knowing what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Kinda the same way everyone started wearing Michael Jackson shirts a few summers back. But let’s not beat a dead horse, and let’s certainly not pay $5000 for a single freaking Twinkie. After all, Twinkies had a good run, but this death has been long-a-coming, even before their Chapter 11 bankruptcy, even before the worker’s strike. So go ahead, make your DIY vanilla crème sponge cakes. Hoard all the grocery store packs you can find. Just don’t pretend you didn’t see this coming.