| USA TODAY
COVID-19: Restaurants are taking biggest hits due to the pandemicThe restaurant industry is taking a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some big chains are filing for bankruptcy or facing challenges paying debts.The family restaurant chain known as Friendly’s now finds itself in the decidedly unfriendly territory of bankruptcy court.FIC Restaurants, the company that owns the chain, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Sunday, becoming the latest in a series of casual dining companies to falter amid the pandemic.The corporate owner said it had agreed to a deal to sell its assets to Amici Partners Group, which is affiliated with BRIX Holdings, a company that handles restaurant franchising. “Nearly all” of Friendly’s 130 company-owned and franchised locations will remain open, FIC said in a statement. The chain is known for its sandwiches, burgers and ice cream desserts.The move comes amid a flurry of bankruptcy filings for restaurant chains, including most recently the companies that own Ruby Tuesday and California Pizza Kitchen. Restaurants that rely heavily on sit-down dining have generally fared poorly amid restrictions on their capacity and fears of the coronavirus as the pandemic continues.Election expectations: Stores brace for post-election unrest and possibility of violence’It’s certainly going to get worse’: Businesses plan more layoffs, hiring freezes in 2020 as COVID-19 escalatesBut the casual dining sector has been struggling for other reasons in recent years, as well, including the rise of fast-casual competitors, food prices and meal-kit alternatives.“We believe the voluntary bankruptcy filing and planned sale to a new, deeply experienced restaurant group will enable Friendly’s to rebound from the pandemic as a stronger business, with the leadership and resources needed to continue to invest in the business and serve loyal patrons, as well as compete to win new customers over the long-term,” FIC CEO George Michel said in a statement.Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.