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Olga’s Kitchen files for bankruptcy protection

Mediterranean restaurant chain Olga’s Kitchen Inc., a longtime staple in Southeast Michigan, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Detroit.

Olga’s, founded in Birmingham in 1970 by Olga Lorizon, owes millions of dollars to dozens of creditors, including $2.4 million to Citizens Bank, $1.2 million to food distributor Sysco Corp. and $103,843 to Detroit-based law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC.

The restaurant chain also owes taxes to the state of Michigan and the Internal Revenue Service, though the amounts were not listed in the bankruptcy filing.

Olga’s listed assets and liabilities of $1 million to $10 million in the filing.

The bankruptcy filing comes after Olga’s began implementing a strategy to open 105 new locations, mostly fast-casual concepts.

In 2010, the company opened its first Olga’s Market Fresh Grill at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills and the company said at the time that it was outperforming other restaurants in the Olga’s system in both sales and traffic.

It was a fast-casual prototype of the original Olga’s Kitchen with menu prices about 10 percent lower than the full-service version.

In 2013, Jonathan Fox replaced Matthew Carpenter, who spent more than six years running Olga’s, as the CEO.

Fox implemented continuity among Olga’s menus and recipes, including adding several items, Crain’s reported in October 2013.

Fox told Crain’s in 2013 that he planned to continue an earlier plan to open 105 new locations, to complement its other 36 locations.

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