05/29/2013 10:20 EDT | Updated 07/29/2013 05:12 EDT

Iconic restaurant Commensal verges on bankruptcy

Le Commensal, the iconic Montreal-based vegetarian restaurant that grew to be the largest chain of its kind in Canada, has announced it's on the verge of bankruptcy.

A few months ago, in an attempt to attract more customers, the restaurant that helped pioneer the vegetarian industry made the controversial choice to go “flexitarian” — and began offering chicken and seafood on its menu.

Flexitarianism is a term often used to refer to vegetarians who occasionally eat meat.

But despite attempts to adapt to changing diet trends, three Commensal outlets have been forced to close their doors.

On Tuesday, the chain shut down its restaurants in Quebec City, Boisbriand, Que. and Toronto.

“It’s a very hard day for me. It’s not easy to make this kind of decision,” said company president Pierre Marc Tremblay.

Tremblay still recalls the first Commensal restaurant that opened in 1977 on St. Denis Street in Montreal, where it emerged as a home-base for many in Montreal’s alternative community.

He said the new “flexitarian” menu options helped increase sales by attracting new clientele, but the chain also lost some of its older customers in the process.

Despite recent struggles, Tremblay says management is looking for new ways to renew the chain.

“It’s just the beginning of the introspection,” he said.