Tyson Evans, a 23-year-old line cook for Cheesecake Factory in Indianapolis, Indiana, said he and fellow workers were stunned to learn about the furloughs. He said they believed the company would continue to employ them despite a drop in business. He is now filing for unemployment.

“We keep this company going,” said Mr. Evans, who is currently living with his parents and worried about paying bills including his phone, grocery and prescriptions. He has started an online petition to urge the chain to keep paying furloughed workers.

Denise Burger, a 64-year-old Cheesecake Factory server in Escondido, Calif., said she was counting on the 36 hours of work the company had scheduled for her before the furloughs came down. Ms. Burger said she’s been contacting her mortgage and credit card companies to try and postpone payments.

“This pandemic has put much stress and strain on me,” said Ms. Burger, who is single and has worked for the company for six years in a job she loved.