Pandemic Forces Souplantation, Sweet Tomatoes Into Bankruptcy

Garden Fresh Restaurants LLC, which owns Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and is liquidating all assets. The buffet-style brands, which had 4,400 employees, weren’t able to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and permanently closed all 97 restaurants and three distribution centers in early May. It is the largest restaurant bankruptcy and liquidation as a result of the pandemic, according to a company press release.

RestaurantEquipment.Bid is auctioning all equipment and contents now through June 30.

“Garden Fresh’s bankruptcy is an early sign of the challenges to come for the restaurant industry in the wake of COVID-19. Our aim with online auctions is to ensure that quality items don’t end up in a landfill — but instead allows for sustainable repurposing that not only makes economic sense but will provide a positive outcome for surviving restaurant operators who can benefit from this liquidation,” Neal Sherman, president of TAGeX Brands, which operates RestaurantEquipment.Bid.

Leslie Gladstone, Trustee of the Bankruptcy who also serves as an officer of the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees, said the goal of the auction is to help the chain’s creditors recover some of their money.

“We also intend to provide a sustainable re-use of the equipment that will make a difference for other restaurants who have been incredibly challenged as a result of the pandemic,” she said in the release.

Garden Fresh was founded in 1978 in San Diego, expanding across the US with over 23 locations in Florida.

The restaurant industry has lost over $225 billion in revenue putting over 8 million people out of work and resulting in the temporary or permanent closing of over 150,000 locations, according to the National Restaurant Association.