Cici’s files for bankruptcy as pandemic accelerates the decline of the all-you-can-eat buffet

A Cici’s Pizza restaurant in Buena Vista, Florida.

John Greim | LightRocket | Getty Images

Buffet chain Cici’s has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced its sale to D&G Investors, its primary lender.

While the coronavirus pandemic has lifted sales for pizza chains like Papa John’s, Domino’s Pizza and Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut, buffet-style restaurants like Cici’s saw their sales plunge. All-you-can-eat buffets were already struggling before the crisis, but dining restrictions and consumers’ heightened concern over cleanliness accelerated their decline.

Cici’s and its franchisees operate 318 locations across 26 states in the U.S. In 2010, it had more than 650 restaurants.

In bankruptcy filings, Cici’s said that it had between $10 million to $50 million in assets and $50 million to $100 million in liabilities. Its top two creditors were Weingarten Realty Investors and Saputo Cheese. In December, D&G Investors purchased $82 million of Cici’s debt, according to the trade publication Restaurant Business.

The chain rebranded in 2015, dropping the “Pizza” from its name as it tried to draw attention to its other menu items. A year later, it was bought by the Arlon Group, an investment firm that focuses on food and agriculture.

Cici’s joins a slew of other restaurant chains that have sought bankruptcy protection during the pandemic, including Punch Bowl Social and the parent company of Friendly’s Restaurants. According to estimates from the National Restaurant Association, more than 110,000 restaurants permanently closed in 2020.

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