Sticky's Finger Joint declares bankruptcy

The New York chicken tender chain struggled coming out of the pandemic with inflation and several legal challenges. It is the latest in a string of industry bankruptcy filings.
Sticky's is the latest in a string of bankruptcy filings among restaurant chains. | Photo by Jonathan Maze.

Sticky’s Finger Joint’s rapid growth ran into a brick wall called the pandemic.

The New York-based chicken tenders chain, which at one point operated 16 locations in New York City and New Jersey, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday, the latest in a string of restaurant companies seeking debt protection.

Sticky’s was undone by a combination of the pandemic, inflation and a series of legal challenges, including one over its name.

The chain was an apparent success, earning cult status in the New York area. Sales at the chain grew from $500,000 in 2013 to $22 million last year, according to court documents.

(Read about the wave of restaurant chain bankruptcy filings.)

But the pandemic led to a decline in sales and closed locations. The company also said that a heavier reliance on less profitable third-party delivery and weak foot traffic in New York City coming out of the pandemic also contributed to its financial challenges.

Commodity inflation likewise played a role, though the company said in court documents that its efforts to offset that inflation has helped with cash flow.

But the company also had its share of legal issues.

Sticky’s last year lost a lawsuit filed by the landlord of its corporate offices in New York, leading to a $600,000 judgment. Sticky’s has appealed that ruling, but said in court documents that the cost of fighting that battle has created a financial strain.

So did this: In 2022 the barbecue chain Sticky Fingers sued Sticky’s over trademark infringement. Sticky’s said the cost of that fight has also created a financial burden.

Earlier this year, the company eased its short-term cash flow crisis with an equity fundraise that included $2.4 million on convertible notes.

The company operates 12 locations, though four restaurants have closed leading up to the bankruptcy filing.

Several restaurant chains have filed for bankruptcy over the past few months, including Clover Food Lab, which emerged from Chapter 11 this week, Tijuana Flats, and Oberweis Dairy. Restaurant-retail hybrid Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen & Market shuttered all 35 of their locations this week. And Red Lobster is reportedly considering a bankruptcy filing.

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