Casual Dining Group, owner of Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge and Las Iguanas, is to cut more than 1,900 jobs and close 91 restaurants after calling in administrators.
It blamed the “extreme operating environment” – which has seen restaurants closed since the start of the lockdown in March.
The closures represent more than a third of the company’s 250 UK sites around the UK. It leaves around 4,050 employees still in work.
It comes a day after it was revealed that specialist turnaround funds are vying to take control of the brands.
The announcement adds to the grim toll of thousands of job losses already announced in recent days as the coronavirus jobs crisis deepens.
Companies from aeroplane maker Airbus to Upper Crust owner SSP have been axing employees as the pandemic wipes out revenues.
Casual Dining Group said that entering the administration process allows it to end negotiations with landlords, a “critical step” towards concluding a sale of its brands.
The company said in a statement that it had received “multiple offers” for the business.
“Given that all offers received for the business envisage a reduced restaurant estate, the administrators have taken the extremely difficult decision to permanently close 91 restaurants with immediate effect,” the statement added.
“Regrettably, this will mean that there will be a number of redundancies across the group.”
The list of closures comprises 34 Bella Italia, 31 Cafe Rouge and 11 Las Iguanas sites as well as 12 airport outlets (which include one Cafe Rouge and one Bella Italia ).
Chief executive James Spragg said: “After reviewing all our options with advisors, it became clear that we needed to take this action in order to protect the business and secure the best possible future for Casual Dining Group as we look to conclude a potential sale.
“We are acutely aware of our duty to all employees and recognise that this is an incredibly difficult time for them.
“Working alongside the administrators we will do everything we can to support them through this process with a view to preserving as much employment as we are able to.”
The announcement comes as the reopening of pubs and restaurants this weekend offers a glimmer of hopes for some in the sector though many fear social distancing rules will mean their businesses are not viable.