Busted Baker Maison Kayser to Be Sold to Le Pain Quotidien Owner

French bakery chain Maison Kayser’s U.S. locations filed for bankruptcy with plans to be taken over by a New York food franchiser that runs bread, burger and salad shops.

Aurify Brands, acting through affiliate companies, will pay $3 million in cash and agree to cancel debt it’s holding, according to court papers. Among the best-known brands in Aurify’s stable are New York outlets of the Five Guys burger chain and the U.S. operation of Le Pain Quotidien, which Aurify saved from liquidation by buying it out of bankruptcy earlier this year.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy for Maison Kayser’s U.S. outlets was filed late Thursday in Manhattan by its New York-based owner, Cosmoledo LLC. Court papers show an Aurify affiliate bought the right to collect nearly $73 million owed by the bakery. That debt will be used as currency in a forthcoming bankruptcy auction, effectively canceling the obligation.

Should no higher offer come in, Aurify would add Maison Kayser to its growing list of New York restaurants.

Pandemic Shutdown

The original Maison Kayser got its start in Paris in 1996, offering to-go pastries and coffee as well as sit-down dining. Maison Kayser has around 150 locations in 22 countries, with the U.S. bankruptcy action covering just the restaurants owned by Cosmoledo.

The American restaurants started in 2012 with a shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Cosmoledo told the court it suffered setbacks in prior years from an ill-fated plan to expand nationwide.

The company sought to restructure its balance sheet and close underperforming stores and was nearly finished with those plans when the pandemic hit. This forced Maison Kayser to close its restaurants and furlough about 800 workers. The chain told the court it had hoped to reopen in June, but found it unfeasible with New York’s restrictions on indoor dining.

“It became clear that the phased reopening of New York City, which included restaurants, would not allow sufficient operations” for a recovery, Chief Executive Officer José Alcalay said in a court filing.

Aurify traces its roots to a Subway sandwich shop in Walton, New York, where co-chief executives Andy Stern and John Rigos got their start in 2003, according to the company’s website. The company went on to own Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream shops before acquiring the rights to develop as many as 30 Five Guys burger restaurants.

In 2011, they changed the name of their company to Aurify -- which means to turn to gold -- reflecting their focus on “high-brand equity potential.”

Cosmoledo listed assets of as much as $50 million and liabilities of up to $100 million in its petition.

The case is Cosmoledo LLC, 20-12117, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan)

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