The six-strong Orange Balloon chain of restaurants, founded two-and-a-half years ago by entrepreneur Jerry Brand, has been sold.
Fast-growing London-based chain Ask Pizza and Pasta is understood to be the buyer, but owners Adam and Sam Kaye were not available for comment at the time of going to press.
Brand confirmed the restaurants had been sold but declined to name the buyer or the price. "I decided the offer was the best I was going to get," he said.
The new owner, a public restaurant company, had bought the assets, not the business, Brand said. That would be wound up this week, with some 100 staff losing their jobs.
The restaurants, all in the Home Counties, will be refurbished before re-opening in January. All are now closed.
Brand claimed most of the restaurants had been "trading well", except for two sites in Tonbridge and Cranleigh which closed several weeks ago.
The former contract caterer said he had been frustrated with the slow pace of growth of the restaurant chain. When he founded Orange Balloon in February 1997, he was aiming at 50 restaurants by the year 2000.
Brian Turner joined Orange Balloon as operations director and executive chef in April 1997, but left in September, citing the pressure of his television work as the reason.