Restaurant chain Bennigan's has had to lay off or furlough up to 70 percent of its staff because of the coronavirus crisis, and Paul Mangiamele, Bennigan's chairman and CEO, told Cheddar Thursday that the decision was 'heartbreaking.'

"We've been around 44 years now… we've been hit hard," Mangiamele said. "In fact, we got sucker punched."

Bennigan's has kept necessary cooking staff and other positions so the casual dining chain can pivot operations amid stay-at-home orders around the country.

"The spirit and the iconic nature of our brand has created this ingenious way of operating now," Mangiamele said. "We're a grocery store, we're doing adult cocktails, we're doing carry-out and delivery."

During the Great Recession, Bennigan's had to file for bankruptcy and close all 150 of its corporate-owned restaurants. Its count of 138 franchises dwindled down to the 15 U.S. locations remaining today.

Mangiamele, along with his wife, purchased the chain in 2015.

"We're a resilient species. We're a resilient brand," Mangiamele said. "If we can come through a Chapter 7 [bankruptcy], we're certainly going to come through this pandemic."

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