Quiznos files for bankruptcy protection

Beleaguered sandwich chain Quiznos filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on Friday to restructure its finances in the face of intense competition in the crowded fast-food arena.

Denver-based Quiznos said the move would not affect customers and said its almost 2,100 restaurants in 35 countries -- most of which are independently owned franchises -- would remain open.

The franchises are not part of the bankruptcy filing. Quiznos directly owns only seven stores.

The prepackaged restructuring is designed to cut the chain`s debt by $400 million US. In its Chapter 11 filing documents, Quiznos listed debts of more than $500 million US.

"Our business plan includes several key elements aimed at supporting our franchisees, including reducing food costs, implementing a franchise owner rebate program," Quiznos Chief Executive Stuart Mathis said in a statement.

The chain, founded in 1981, is facing an increasingly competitive fast-food market.  Its biggest rival, Subway, has 41,000 franchised restaurants in 100 countries.

The Quiznos bankruptcy filing followed a similar filing earlier this week by struggling pizza chain Sbarro.