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Bankruptcy protection sought for Friendly's chain

Bankruptcy protection would allow 400-restaurant chain to restructure and stay in business. At least three other restaurant chains have filed for bankruptcy protection this year.

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A waitress takes orders at Friendly's restaurant in Brunswick, Maine, earlier this week. The parent company of the Friendly's restaurant chain is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and says it has already closed 63 of its stores.

Pat Wellenbach/AP

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The parent of the Friendly's restaurant chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Wednesday and said that it has already closed 63 of its stores. Each store employed about 20 people, so about 1,260 jobs were lost.

The 76-year-old company known for its ice cream and hamburgers is the latest restaurant chain to file forbankruptcy, as consumers continue to eat out less, a habit they picked up during the recession, and food costs remain high.

Other companies that have sought bankruptcy protection this year include Perkins & Marie Callender's; Real Mex, which operates El Torito Restaurant and Chevys Fresh Mex, and SSI Group Holding Corp., which operates Souper Salad and Grandy's restaurant.

Friendly's said the economic downturn coupled with higher costs and high rents drove it to file for bankruptcy protection.

"The strategic decision to pursue a financial restructuring will allow us to proactively and quickly improve our financial position," said CEO Harsha V. Agadi.

Friendly Ice Cream Corp., based in Wilbraham, Mass., says it has secured $70 million in financing and that its 424 remaining restaurants will stay open and pay employee salaries and benefits as it reorganizes underbankruptcy protection. Gift cards will continue to be honored. Friendly's now employs about 9,000 workers.

Its current owners, Sun Capital Partners, will be the lead, or "stalking horse" bidders, in an auction process.

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The company filed for bankruptcy protection at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

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