EAGAN, Minn. – Buffets Inc. announced on Jan. 18 it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed 81 restaurants. Buffets Inc. is the parent company to the Old Country Buffet, HomeTown Buffet and Ryan’s steak-buffet brands. It also operates and franchises restaurants under the Country Buffet, Fire Mountain and Tahoe Joe’s Famous Steakhouse brands.

The company said lenders with 83 percent of the senior debt agreed to convert roughly $245 million in senior secured debt to an equity stake as part of the restructuring deal. Mike Andrews, chief executive officer of Buffets Inc., said the move would virtually eliminate all the company's outstanding debt and provide resources for future investment in the company.

The restaurant closures represent 16 percent of the company's 494 units in 38 states. The move was part of a strategic review that began in May 2011. The company said it would also be seeking more favorable lease agreements at other locations.

“Similar to eliminating an unsustainable debt burden, reducing our total restaurant footprint by closing unsustainable restaurants will allow the company to focus on improving operations, enhancing our guest experience and making targeted investments that ensure the long-term viability of Buffets,” Andrews said.