The corporate owners of a few San Diego restaurants have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Acapulco, El Torito and Chevys Fresh Mex face possible closure if the companies fail to make enough money.
The eateries operated by the three big brand chains are looking to sell off some assets to stay in business. Each chain has three locations in San Diego County, but their survival isn't guaranteed.
The restaurant business is risky even in prosperous times and the odds get even longer when diners hoard their dollars.
"It does seem sort of a vicious cycle,” Linda Vista resident Anthony Ling said. “The only way to really stimulate the economy is to actually go out and buy products and eat at restaurants and stuff like that. And if you don't have the money, you can't do that.”
The restaurants' bankrupt holding company also has a wholesale Mexican food distributor that supplies El Pollo Loco, Del Taco, Baja Fresh outlets and retailers such as Costco, Vons and Trader Joe's.
About 11,000 jobs could be affected by the bankruptcy.