Published: 12:07, 27 March 2020
| Updated: 12:47, 27 March 2020
A popular Mexican restaurant chain could permanently close all of its Kent branches due to coronavirus losses.
Chiquito, which is owned by parent company The Restaurant Group, has three sites across the county: One in Thanet's Westwood Cross, another at Eureka Park in Ashford and one in Cuxton Road, Rochester.
Of the chain's 81 nationwide stores, 61 will be permanently shutting as the company prepares to move in administrators.
A further 20 sites not owned by Chiquito Ltd will not be impacted.
A spokesman for The Restaurant Group - which also owns Wagamama and Frankie and Benny's - said: "As we announced in our update to the market on March 18, Covid-19 has had an immediate and significant impact on trading across the Group.
"We have conducted a review of the performance of our business divisions, with a particular focus on the expected future cash generation profile of each of our business units.
"The Group believes that both Food & Fuel Limited and Chiquito Limited will achieve negative EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) in the financial year ending December 27.
"As a result, the Group has taken the very difficult decision to appoint administrators for Food & Fuel Limited and filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator for Chiquito Limited.
"The decisions have been incredibly difficult and we recognise the significant impact on all of our colleagues that are affected.
"We thank them for their hard work and commitment during these very testing times.”
The move is expected to affect about 1,500 employees.
The spokesman noted that the Kent stores may not be effected, as the firm is holding a site-by-site review to judge which 20 branches could remain open in the future.
Aside from its London pub chain Food & Fuel Ltd, none of its other entities have announced permanent closures.
Chiquito's future has long been in doubt, with the parent company announcing in September that it had recorded an £88 million loss over the first half of the financial year.
This latest announcement has shaken share traders' confidence, causing The Restaurant Group's share price to plummet by 6.4% in the first four hours of trading today.