The owner of Bella Italia and Café Rouge has filed a notice of intent to appoint administrators, putting the future of 6,000 workers in doubt.
Casual Dining Group had been in difficulty for some time, with problems now exacerbated by the lockdown, which has seen venues shuttered for weeks.
The restaurant group, which also operates the Las Iguanas chain, said the move will give the company 10 days’ breathing space to consider “all options” for restructuring.
Earlier on Monday, Casual Dining Group confirmed that it was working with advisers from consultancy firm AlixPartners over a potential restructuring programme aimed at repairing the group’s finances
A Casual Dining Group spokesperson said: “As is widely acknowledged, this is an unprecedented situation for our industry and, like many other companies across the UK, the directors of Casual Dining Group are working closely with our advisers as we consider our next steps.
“These notifications are a prudent measure in light of the company’s position and the wider situation.
“These notifications will also protect the company from any threatened potential legal action from landlords while we review the detail of the government advice and formulate a plan for the company in these difficult times.”
Restaurant chains were told to shut their doors in March, with many fearing that, when they do reopen, social distancing measures will make them less profitable or even unviable.
The Casual Dining Group is understood to be considering several options including company voluntary arrangement, which could see it shut less profitable restaurants and renegotiate rents.
Specific brands could also be put into administration while others are spared.
The group, which has furloughed the majority of its staff, traded from around 250 sites across the UK before the lockdown.
It is understood the group has seen profitability improve since it agreed a refinancing deal with US private equity firm KKR in 2018.
Meanwhile, Boparan Restaurants, the owner of rival chain Giraffe, is reportedly closing on a deal to buy Carluccio’s, in a move that would save around 900 jobs.
Sky News said Boparan is looking to conclude a deal that would include taking over the Carluccio’s brand, head office and approximately 30 restaurants.
Last month, insolvency experts from FRP Advisory were appointed as administrators to Carluccio’s, which had around 70 sites before the pandemic.
Carluccio’s and administrators FRP have declined to comment.
Additional reporting by PA news agency