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Restaurants

Fast-casual Panera competitor Così files for bankruptcy

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Cosi, the fast-casual lunch and catering chain, announced Wednesday that it is filing for bankruptcy, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. Prior to the announcement, the restaurant group had already closed 40 percent of its company-owned stores and will now be putting the rest up for sale.

“This was a difficult step, but it was necessary to address our liquidity issues,” Patrick Bennett, interim CEO of Così, said in a statement. “We believe this process will allow the company to right-size its balance sheet, reduce its debt, and focus on improving the business and stabilizing the brand.”

Così was once seen as a major competitor to similar chains like Panera Bread and Pret a Manger. The company has 31 franchisee-owned units that are unaffected by the filing.

The Boston-based  chain, which employs 1,100 people, listed $31.2 million in assets and $19.8 million in debts, according to its bankruptcy petition.

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Said Bennet, “It’s become clear that, despite the extensive efforts by the company, no such transactions are achievable at this time, that the company cannot continue to operate in its current financial condition, and that the best alternative for the company and its creditors would be to accomplish a sale through the bankruptcy process."

Cosi also said it did not respond rapidly to "macro" trends and struggled to keep up in the increasingly competitive fast-casual food space.