Mystery surrounds the fate of Italian dining chain Fat Angelo's after all three of its Hong Kong restaurants shut their doors yesterday.
"Fat Angelo's has closed due to major renovations," said signs put up outside the popular Italian chain's outlets in Kennedy Town, Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsuen Wan.
The chain's owner, Andy Chworowsky, could not be reached for comment last night and calls to the restaurants went unanswered. But the news spread quickly on discussion forums, with diners expressing shock. Those who paid upfront for discounted vouchers with group-buying firm Groupon feared they would not be able to redeem their purchase.
One internet user wrote on parenting forum Baby Kingdom that she had received a call from a Fat Angelo's restaurant yesterday afternoon, saying the entire chain had closed and could not fulfil her request for a reservation.
The chain's website, which was still operating last night, boasts of its "big tasty portions of family-style Italian food (and we mean BIG)" and that its outlets "make an immediate impression from the street with a look that could be straight out of Little Italy in New York City".
Chworowsky has expressed concern over a problem that has dogged many restaurant chains: the city's fast-rising rents.
In August, he told HK Magazine: "We're paying our rent and our fixed costs for the first 27 days of each month. And then we get three days [of profit]. … The frustrating thing is no matter what happens every month, the landlord gets his cheque, but we have to … take that risk all the time."
In 2005, Chworowsky told the Post he had closed another outlet in Tsim Sha Tsui when the landlord increased the monthly rent from HK$160,000 to HK$500,000.
Internet users recalled their experiences of visiting the chain for dates, enjoying its big portions and the balloons that came with meals for children. Others said they no longer went there, citing deterioration in the quality of the food.
A Groupon customer service worker said those who bought vouchers for the restaurant could request a full refund by dialling its hotline or sending in an e-mail.
The vouchers offered meals priced from HK$148 to HK$288, serving two to four people. The expiry date was mid-May.
The chain expanded into Taiwan in 2009. The fate of its Taipei restaurant is not known.