All 97 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes locations are reportedly shutting down for good after their parent company, Garden Fresh Restaurants, struggled to remain financially solvent amid the downturn.
"Who's ever going to eat at a buffet again and go to a salad bar? I think we're all gonna be hesitant at least for another couple years, and that's after we find a vaccine," said Stuart Waldman, president of Valley Industry Commerce Association.
The company's CEO, John Haywood, told The San Diego Union-Tribune COVID-19 has made it too difficult for them to reopen.
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"The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets," said Haywood. "The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I'm not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it."
The San Diego-based company has 44 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants in California.
According to the newspaper, 4,400 employees will lose their jobs due to the permanent closure.
Matthew Schrader worked at the Souplantation in Chino Hills for more than two years. He has been out of work since March 15, hasn't been able to get unemployment insurance or a new job. But he did receive a stimulus check last month.
"That helped out a bit, but that was last month, so this month is a different month," he said.
However, Schrader is optimistic.
"I have hope that we'll get through this situation, that the economy will recover, but it's gonna take a long process," he said.