Pizza Express could permanently close scores of its 470 UK restaurants, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The paper reports that the high street chain could go through a restructuring process known as a company voluntary agreement (CVA), which would allow it to exit some or all of its loss-making sites and reach an agreement with creditors.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March fewer than 10 of the chain's UK venues were loss-making.
But it is understood the crisis has forced the firm to evaluate options for ensuring its future viability and a CVA is one of several possibilities.
Pizza Express is grappling with a £1.1bn ($1.34bn) debt pile, of which £665m is owed to bondholders, and is seeking a consent solicitation to delay publication of its 2019 results on advice from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Pizza Express – which employs 14,000 people globally across 627 restaurants – declined to comment.
The news comes as a string of high street food chains battle for survival.
Last week Carluccio’s was bought in a rescue deal that saved 30 of its restaurants but resulted in more than 1,000 job losses.
The restaurant chain was sold to Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner owner Boparan Restaurant Group.
But the move also resulted in the redundancy of 1,019 Carluccio’s employees after it was unable to secure the future of the chain’s other 40 restaurants.
Under Government restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic, all cafes and restaurants have been forced to close.
There is also trouble at chains Las Iguanas, Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia.