Written by Nicholas Vetrisek
Souplantation, the San Diego-based chain restaurant that has operated for nearly half a century, is officially closing its doors. After 42 years and as a result of the coronavirus, the chain is now shutting down for good.
The closing of all 97 restaurants, 44 of which are in California, will cost 4,400 jobs.
John Haywood, CEO of Garden Fresh, Souplantation’s parent company, said that “the FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets. The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it.”
“We could’ve overcome any other obstacle, and we’ve worked for eight weeks to overcome these intermittent financial challenges but it doesn’t work if we are not allowed to continue our model,” Haywood added.
Garden Fresh restaurants were especially hit hard by the virus because of the buffet concept, said Robert Allbritton, chairman of Perpetual Capital Partners, a private investment firm that purchased the company after it filed bankruptcy in 2016.
“We spent two years researching and trying to improve things and actually got the business turned around,” Allbritton said. “We were growing the number of guests and were in the process of renovating the restaurants with new fixtures, carpeting, signage as late as January. We felt great about it. But I’ve got to tell you, when the virus hit, we went from 100 percent to 70 to 30 to 10 percent that fast, before the restaurants closed down and the company ran out of money in one week.”
Businesses all across California are struggling to stay open because of the harsh limits imposed on them out of public health concerns. Souplantation is only the most recent in what will inevitably be a long list of business closures.