Popular Toronto restaurant chain behind Buca, La Banane and more seeks protection from creditors amid COVID-19 impact

·2 min read

A popular chain of Toronto-area eateries is among the latest victims of the pandemic-battered restaurant industry now facing an existential crisis unlike any other seen in our lifetime.

Hospitality sector standouts King Street Food Company, which operates brands such as Buca, Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse and Jamie’s Italian, have filed for insolvency.

The company which once boasted a string of trendy eateries including restaurants in popular locations such as the Yorkdale mall is now in the throes of cooking up a plan to satisfy its creditors, according to a statement King Street Food shared with the Star Monday afternoon.

“Alongside the entire hospitality sector, the COVID-19 Pandemic has put us in an extremely difficult situation that was beyond our control,” said Peter Tsebelis, managing director & partner of King Street Company Inc.

The company confirmed Monday that it “obtained relief under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (to) restructure its businesses and financial affairs, as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis.”

In a ruling made by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday, insolvency trustee MNP Ltd. was appointed as monitor of King Street Food’s CCAA proceedings.

“This was an emotional decision for us but we are confident that the CCAA process will give us time to stabilize our business and ultimately put us in a stronger position to build on our successful brands as we emerge from the COVID crisis,” said Tsebelis, one of the founding partners of the brand.

Conceived in 2006, the brand bloomed with a portfolio of eats including Buca Osteria & Enoteca, Bar Buca, Buca Osteria & Bar in Toronto’s Four Seasons development, French-inspired La Banane and the CXBO chocolate shop.

Now facing an uncertain future as it’s thrown into a phase of “restructuring and recapitalization,” the statement says, the board of directors sought relief under the act in a last-ditch effort to create “breathing room” to continue the development of plans for reopenings as well as new openings.

The financial slump blamed on the virus and new public-health rules in response outbreak has ravaged all aspects of the hospitality industry. Its impact comes in wake of King Street Food marking the tenth anniversary of its first Buca restaurant in Toronto’s King West community. Pre-pandemic there were also talks of expansion, all of which have been put on hold.

Provincially ordered restrictions on dining forced restaurants to temporarily close dine-in service, with a limited number of King Street Food eateries offering a scaled-back takeout and delivery service. Before last month’s closures of indoor service in Toronto, “the company was actively preparing for a gradual reopening of select venues,” the release states.

If dining restrictions are relaxed in Toronto, come Nov. 14, King Street Food is standing by its plan to reopen certain restaurants including Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse, La Banane and select Buca restaurants for indoor/outdoor dining.

Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star