SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – San Diego-based buffet chain Souplantation has announced it will permanently close all of its restaurants amid the coronavirus pandemic, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Garden Fresh Restaurants, the parent company of Souplantation and sister chain Sweet Tomatoes as it is known in the Bay Area reportedly told the Union-Tribune it will shutter all 97 restaurants across the US.

There are 44 locations in California, with several Sweet Tomatoes restaurants across the Bay Area.

Sweet Tomatoes in the Bay Area / Google Maps

CEO John Haywood told the publication that the restaurants’ buffet-style model wouldn’t be able to survive amid the FDA’s regulations.

According to the outlet, about 4,400 employees will lose their jobs, the Union-Tribune reported.

Garden Fresh Restaurants CEO John Haywood told Nation’s Restaurant News that the company spent the last eight weeks “exploring every possible option” to avoid permanent closure.

“Our problem is this: we’re a buffet concept,” he said, adding that he didn’t see a “path” to reopening the restaurant chain after Georgia — one of the first states to reopen businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic — was met with criticism for relaxing restrictions on dine-in services.

Haywood said the company has been losing roughly $1 million a week after temporarily closing down Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes outposts nationwide mid-March

Souplantation is one of the first restaurant chains to publicly announced permanent closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The retail sector has been hit especially hard. Since the pandemic hit, big-box retailers Neiman Marcus and J. Crew have filed for bankruptcy, while Nordstrom announced several permanent closures across the US.

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