FALLOUT: Local Bravo, Brio restaurants ‘likely to remain closed’ even after pandemic, owner says

Restaurant chain files for reorganization bankruptcy; Bravo in Beavercreek no longer listed on company web site

The parent company of Bravo Cucina Italiana and Brio Tuscan Grille has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is seeking a buyer, but its three Dayton-area locations appear unlikely to reopen, and one may already be closed permanently, according to the company's bankruptcy petition and its web site.

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Bravo Cucina Italiana has operated two Dayton-area locations, at the Mall at Fairfield Commons and at the Dayton Mall, while its sister restaurant, Brio Tuscan Grille, has operated at The Greene Town Center.

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In its bankruptcy petition filed Friday April 10, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for central Florida, FoodFirst Global Restaurants Inc., the corporate parent of Brio and Bravo, said only 21 of its nearly 100 restaurants "continue to operate, with the remainder temporarily closed pending a final determination whether to reopen. It is likely those not currently operating will remain closed."

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It’s not clear whether the two Dayton-area Bravo restaurants operated as carryout restaurants after the March 15 order by Gov. Mike DeWine and state health officials to cease all restaurant dine-in services. But they have not operated for at least the last few weeks. Brio Tuscan Grille at The Greene operated briefly as a carryout restaurant immediately after the order, but  has not been included in The Greene’s list of restaurants offering carryout since at least March 25.

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There are more ominous signs for the Bravo Cucina Italiana restaurant at the Mall at Fairfield Commons, which occupies a prime location adjacent to the mall's main entrance. It is no longer listed among the existing Bravo locations in Ohio on Bravo Cucina Italiana's own web site. The reservation booking web site Open Table classifies the Beavercreek restaurant "Permanently Closed" on its web site.

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A message left Sunday with a spokesperson for the Mall at Fairfield Commons had not been returned as of Monday morning, and a message left with FoodFirst officials Monday morning has not elicited a response.

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Nation's Restaurant News, which covers the restaurant industry, said in a story over the weekend that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restaurant-shutdown orders "wiped out" 60 percent of the company's restaurants within days. NRN said FoodFirst CEO Steve Layt, who had been on the job for less than three months, told the web site that FoodFirst closed 71 of its 92 locations and kept only its best-performing restaurants open during the health crisis.

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Since then, "we have experienced nothing short of devastating sales declines," Layt said in a statement, according to NRN. "The COVID-19 outbreak truly could not have come at a worse time for our business."

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The Bravo and Brio restaurants concepts were born in Columbus in the 1990s. Friday’s bankruptcy filing came nearly two years after Bravo Brio Restaurant Group Inc. went private in a May 2018 deal valued at $100 million, NRN said. The company changed its name to FoodFirst and moved its headquarters to Orlando, Florida.

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Bravo opened its first Dayton-area location — then called Bravo Italian Kitchen — on State Route 725 east of the Dayton Mall in 1995 and moved to a new location in front of the mall itself in 2006.

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