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U.S. Arm of Le Pain Quotidien Franchise Declares Bankruptcy

The cafe chain closed all of its 98 U.S. locations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. arm of Le Pain Quotidien, the Belgian-based cafe-bakery franchise that has long struggled to break through in the states, has filed for bankruptcy. 

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, PQ New York Inc., the parent company that operates Le Pain Quotidien’s 98 domestic locations, has agreed to sell all of those units to New York-based Aurify Brands LLC for “about $3 million.” Aurify Brands plans to re-open nearly a third of them and will assume the franchising rights to the brand in the U.S.

Aurify Brands operates several original concepts, including Melt Shop, The Little Beet, Fields Good Chicken as well as managing New York franchised locations of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. If the deal is approved, Aurify plans to reopen at least 35 Le Pain Quotidien units, creating about 1,000 jobs and potentially rehiring former workers, the company said.

The hard times for Le Pain Quotidien did not begin with the coronavirus. The franchise has experienced declining sales in the U.S. for years, which PQ New York attributed to “increased competition, a lack of investment in digital platforms and a consumer movement toward more convenient grab-and-go concepts.”

The franchise has not fared much better abroad. The chain’s British operator has been searching, so far unsuccessfully, for a buyer and is currently operating under the management of a third-party administrator. 

Investment firm M80, which has majority ownership of Le Pain Quotidien’s European holdings, plans to relaunch the brand in Europe.

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