Le Petit Blanc, the four-strong brasserie chain created by Raymond Blanc in 1996, has been put into administration despite attempts to reverse its declining fortunes with a new management team.
The Birmingham, Oxford, Cheltenham and Manchester restaurants are part of a 50:50 joint venture by Orient-Express Hotels and Blanc. The restaurants employ 178 staff and had a 2002 turnover of £6.7m.
The group suffered losses last year following management problems, which became unsustainable after trade was further hit by the economic downturn and political uncertainty.
A new management team was installed last October but the group was forced to apply for administration after abandoning a plan to inject the business with cash from shareholders.
Blanc said he had complete trust in his new team and has negotiated for their continued involvement.
"I felt, for the first time, I had a fantastic team with the knowledge and enthusiasm to take us back to profitability," he said. "Unfortunately, the past few months have been very hard to restaurant businesses in general and we have seen our customer level fall."
He added: "We have applied for administration in order to give us time to re-evaluate the business and look at various options for the way forward."
Lee Manning and Alastair Beveridge, partners in Kroll's Corporate Advisory and Restructuring Group, have been appointed joint administrators and will keep the restaurants open for business while they attempt to secure a going-concern sale.
Manning said: "While Le Petit Blanc has suffered as a result of the current economic climate, we believe that, with restaurants in prime locations, it will be attractive to purchasers."
Blanc said he hoped to retain his 50% ownership of the restaurants and would be meeting a number of possible investors over the next few weeks.
He remained positive about the future for the group, saying: "I still think there is a tremendous amount of possibility in the restaurants. I believe in the brand name, the quality and the team. We have a limited field of action but there is still plenty of opportunity."
Blanc said the administration of the brasserie chain would not influence business at the partnership's other restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Berkshire.
By Helen Adkins