These 40 chain restaurants are closing down locations across the United States. We’re not saying they will definitely disappear forever- but they just might. Even when the economy is struggling, people still have to eat. Going to a restaurant is one of the few things that most people still manage to squeeze into their budget. However, sometimes, chain eateries can flop if they aren’t too careful. Make sure you visit these places before they are gone for good!
No! Say it ain’t so! Applebee’s is a sit-down restaurant that is a family favorite. However, they spent a lot of money trying to overhaul their menu in order to attract Millennials to come to their restaurant and bar. Unfortunately, by changing the menu, it made some of the loyal customers upset that they could no longer get their favorite meals. From 2016 to 2018, they shut down a total of 225 locations.
39. Baja Fresh
The Mexican restaurant Baja Fresh began in 1990, and it became popular enough to boast 200 locations after a few years. In 2002, Wendy’s bought out Baja Fresh. However, they made some decisions that make the business go downhill, and Wendy’s quickly had to sell it by 2006. They just barely missed the Great Recession, but apparently, the new owners were able to turn it around to help it survive at all. By 2017, they had to close down several locations. There are now only 165 Baja Fresh restaurants in the US.
38. Steak & Shake
Steak ‘n Shake was founded in 1934 in Normal, IL, so it has been around for quite some time. However, in 2016, their annual sales plummeted a whopping $1 billion. The next year, it lost just shy of another billion; $940 million. They also shut down 60 restaurants. It would seem that only people in the midwest like the taste of their burgers. As soon as they start trying to expand to other states, they are met with a “no thank you”.
37. Big Boy
Founded in 1936, Big Boy originally opened as “Bob’s Pantry”. Back then, the burger joint was extremely popular, and by the 1970’s, they had over 1,000 locations open in the United States. However, since then, many of them have shut down. Today, there are fewer than 200 Big Boy restaurants open in the midwest.
36. Don Pablo’s
In 1985, Don Pablo’s was founded in Lubbock, Texas. For years, the company was growing bigger and bigger, until they had 120 locations around the United States. However, it started to receive a lot of competition with Tex-Mex restaurants like Chi-Chi’s and Moe’s, and after a while, more and more locations started to shut down. They went through several bankruptcies, and it was bought out many times. Today, there is just one lonely Don Pablo’s restaurant left in business in Deptford, New Jersey.
35. Bob Evans
Bob Evans was founded in 1946 in Ohio, and it spread across the United States to over 400 locations. In 2016, Bob Evans closed 27 restaurants, and their company was struggling to grow. In 2017, Bob Evans sold all of their remaining restaurants for $565 million to a company named Golden Gate Capital- they are the same people who own California Pizza Kitchen and Red Lobster. So, only time will tell if they can turn the failing restaurant around, or if it will continue to sink in profits.
34. Sweet Tomatoes
In 1978, a buffet called Souplantation opened in San Diego California. They had a business model where you can have all-you-can-eat soup, salad, and bread. This was perfect for health conscious Californians, and they did very well. So, they opened up a second restaurant called Sweet Tomatoes, which had a similar food selection, with the addition of pizza and pasta. Their first bankruptcy happened in 2016, and they had to sell all of their assets. This forced 30 restaurants to close. Today, there are only a few locations left open.
33. BJ’s Brewhouse
BJ’s Brewhouse was founded in California in 1978. The restaurant sold pizza, as well as some great beer. In 2018, BJ’s Brewhouse stocks dipped 25%, which is not looking good at all. Its parent company, DineEquity, also lost 47% of its value, as well. So with less than 200 restaurants open in the USA, there is a chance we may see more closing in the future.
32. Dogs & Suds
Besides Nathan’s Hot Dogs and Stewart’s Root Beer, there aren’t very many hot dog joints out there anymore, probably because people prefer to wait until their summer barbecues. Since the 1950’s, Dogs & Suds was a cute drive-in burger and hot dog place. By 1968, they boasted 560 restaurants all over the United States. Today, there are only 10, and they are all in midwestern states. So, if you see one of these rare spots on a road trip, you just may want to stop in.
31. Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips
Fish and chips are an iconic meal in England. Arthur Treacher, as you might imagine, was a British actor. He became very famous in the 1950’s, and by the 60’s, he decided to open a restaurant chain in the United States. The first was in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969. At its peak, they had a whopping 800 restaurants across the US. However, by the 1970’s, it began to decline. Today, there are only 7 locations open in New York and Ohio.
The very first Blimpie sandwich shop opened in Hoboken, New jersey. At its peak, they had over 2,000 restaurants all over the world. However, today, there is so much competition with stores like Subway, Jersey Mike’s, and Firehouse Subs. There are now only 250 locations.
29. Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Bloomin’ Brands, which is the parent company of Carrabba’s Italian Grill, announced that they needed to close under-performing restaurants. A total of 43 Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill locations closed in 2017. This does not necessarily mean that the company will go bankrupt. They may have been preventing a total shut-down. However, if they are getting smaller, chances are that fewer people are choosing to eat there.
28. Planet Hollywood
Way back in 1991, a New York City based restaurant called Planet Hollywood was created. The restaurant was Hollywood themed, of course, and it got plenty of celebrity endorsement. At its peak, there were 87 locations in major cities around the USA. However, after a while, the stars lost interest, and so did the investors. Today, there are only 6 restaurants left. However, they expanded to having full hotels and resorts, which may make up for the losses in restaurants.
27. Chi Chi’s
You may remember Chi-Chi’s as a popular Tex-Mex restaurant in the early 2000’s. Kids loved going there for birthdays, because they could walk away with a free Mexican sombrero to take home with them. However, the trend in Tex-Mex did not last, and all 200 restaurant locations were completely wiped out of the US, except for their branded products that you can find in grocery stores. They also still have restaurants in Belgium and Luxembourg.
In 1976, the Irish-American restaurant called Bennigans was first launched in Atlanta, Georgia.. In 2007, the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and had to close 150 of its restaurants. They have tried to make a comeback, but there are only 13 locations open today.
25. Hometown Buffet
People love food, but with the growing obesity rates in the United States, going to all-you-can-eat buffets has become a faux-pas. So many more people are at least trying to cut back on portion sizes. Hometown Buffet filed for bankruptcy not just once, but three times. It is still struggling to stay alive, but it closed 166 restaurants in 2016.
24. Chicken Delight
Believe it or not, in the 1960s, Chicken Delight had 1,000 locations open, and it was far more popular than KFC. However, their biggest problem was that the quality and the flavor of the fried chicken was not consistent. People were often unhappy with their food. Today, there are only about a dozen locations still open in New York and Canada.
For years, Hooters was famous for the place where people (mostly men) could go to drink beer, eat wings, and oggle beautiful waitresses showing off their cleavage. The company tried to expand into lifestyle products, similar to Playboy. They actually tried to open up an airline called Hooters Air, which meant that the company lost millions of dollars. And according to Business Insider, the number of Hooters restaurants has decreased by 7%. The company has decided to strategize to make some changes to appeal to millennials. Only time will tell if they will continue to be popular, or if the idea of a “breastaurant” will become a thing of the past.
22. Joe’s Crab Shack
Founded in 1991, Joe’s Crab Shack began in Texas selling seafood. Perhaps, since Texans were far from fresh seafood by the ocean, this is why it became an extremely popular place to eat. The company was first sold in 2006, and changed hands a few more times. At its peak, they opened 130 restaurants. However, in 2016, there was a huge scandal because of racist table artwork. Embedded in the tables was an old photograph of a black man being lynched, with a little speech bubble that said, “All I said was that I didn’t like the gumbo.” Obviously, this was extremely racist. Even though the company apologized, it was enough for the NAACP to condemn the restaurant. Many people chose to stop dining there. They filed for bankruptcy in 2017, 41 Joe’s Crab Shack locations closed down.
21. The Brown Derby
For years, The Brown Derby restaurant was a place where actors and artists would go in Hollywood if they wanted to make some important networking done. It was considered to be glamorous, and a huge part of the culture in LA. There were four locations open in Los Angeles, but by the 1980’s, all of those restaurants shut down, and the one and only restaurant left was re-opened in Walt Disney World in Florida as “Hollywood Brown Derby”.
20. Noodles & Company
Two goals almost all big restaurant chains aim for are expanding and seeing more money on the bottom line. Noodles & Company hasn’t been doing either one lately. It closed 39 restaurants in 2017, but it opened only 17 locations to offset the losses. That was after it paid $11 million in data breach settlements in 2016 as it lost close to $72 million that year. Noodles & Company isn’t dead yet, but it’s definitely one of America’s struggling restaurants.
19. Old Country Buffet
Old Country Buffet and Home Town Buffet are both owned by the same larger corporation, Ovation Brands. So it should really not be all that surprising that if one of them does badly, so does the other. During the early 2000’s, Old Country Buffet was a popular place for families to go, especially since everything was all-you-can-eat. They had delicious macaroni and cheese, every kind of sliced meat you could want, potatoes, a salad bar, as well as cakes and an ice cream machine. Old Country Buffet has been featured in countless documentaries and news coverage as one of the many reasons to blame for America’s obesity epidemic. In 2016, the corporation shut down over 70 of their buffets. Today, there are fewer than 20 Old County Buffet locations open in the United States, with a few more under the other Ovation Brand names.
In 1981, the Quiznos sandwich shop opened in Denver, Colorado. They were so delicious, that they were able to spread locations across the United States. At its peak, there were 5,000 Quiznos in 2007. However, after the Great Recession in 2008, people were spending less money, and they were much more picky about where they went to eat. In 2014, they had to declare bankruptcy. In 2019, the restaurant now only has 400 locations open.
17. Rainforest Cafe
Going to Rainforest Cafe is truly a unique experience. When you go inside, it is completely decorated like you are walking into a rainforest, complete with statues of animals that occasionally move and make noise. The food is very similar to what you would find at Applebee’s, and there is also a bar for adults. For the most part, these restaurants are meant for kids. At the peak of its popularity, Rainforest Cafe had 32 locations, but today, there are only 17.
16. Roy Rogers
The “Roy Rogers” name comes from the actor who played in cowboy movies for decades. In the 1960’s, he decided to open up a restaurant chain to sell all-American foods like burgers, fries, and milkshakes. For decades, they were thriving, and by 1991, they opened 600 locations across the US. At the peak of its popularity, Roy Roger’s was sold to a company called Hardee’s, and they decided to change the name. However, people were so upset about this re-branding, that they decided to stop going to the restaurant. Hardees knew that they made a huge mistake, so they tried to restore “Roy Rogers” back to its former glory. But the damage had already been done. Today, there are only 50 locations that still exist in the United States.
15. Tony Roma’s
Way back in the 1970’s, Tony Roma’s served the food for the Playboy Club. But even after those clubs declined in popularity, some men still wanted to get the food elsewhere, so they started opening restaurant locations. At one point, there were 160 locations in the US, but today, there are just 15. They are actually more Tony Roma’s restaurants in other countries than there are in the United States.
Maybe you recognize the Kewpee Doll, which has been around for years. For some strange reason, the doll inspired someone to open up a restaurant based on the toy. By the 1940’s, there were over 400 Kewpee restaurants across the United States. Today, there are only 5 left.
Founded in 1981, TCBY jumped on the bandwagon of frozen yogurt joints that claimed to have a healthier alternative to ice cream. By the early 2000’s, they had almost 1,800 locations around the United States. But other yogurt chains like Pink Berry and YoGo began to appear, so TCBY was suddenly not the only place where customers could go for their sweet treats. Today, there are only 350 locations still open.
12. Chock Full O’Nuts
You may recognize the Chock Full O’Nuts coffee brand from your grocery store shelves. But did you know that they also have brick-and-mortar cafes? The coffee shop actually has a long history, that started in New York City in 1926. When the Great Depression hit, the shop offered a cup of coffee and a sandwich for just 5 cents. Since people knew that it was a cheap place to get a decent meal, the terrible economy actually helped them to succeed. Chock Full O’Nuts expanded to 80 locations. But when the founder of the company died in 1983, the visionary was no longer there to guide them. Today, there are six locations in New York City, and Miami. However, the coffee still sells decently well in grocery locations.
11. Papa Murphy’s
Papa Murphy’s Pizza Shop is a very successful restaurant chain. Even though they went from 1,504 to 1,566 locations, they still have loads of places open. However, their profits are beginning to decline in the multi-millions. Many business experts see this as just the beginning of a crash. After all, with so many pizza chains out there, does the world really need another one?
10. Damon’s Grill
In 2009, Damon’s Grill went through a bankruptcy, and they had to rework their business to help reorganize their debt and keep it afloat. However, these bankruptcy proceedings went on for several years as the struggling restaurant chain had to keep some of their locations open for the sake of paying back many of its creditors. The company has now shut down the vast majority of its locations, and they have not even bothered to create a website.
9. Pizza Hut
Pizza Hut was originally founded in 1958 in Kansas. The company has gone a long way since then. According to their website, are several thousand Pizza Hut locations open across The United States. In 2018, the executives of Pizza Hut say that they were disappointed with the amount of growth, saying that they need to make some major adjustments if they want the brand to grow. However, maybe Pizza Hut has just hit critical mass. Is it in danger of shutting down for good? Probably not. However, several locations have been shut down or re-branded across the US as the corporation tries to strategize on how to improve their profits.
8. Ground Round
Founded in 1969, The Ground Round became very popular among kids, because it frequently hosted kid’s birthday parties with a performer called Bingo the Clown. They also gave out bowls of peanuts in their shells, and told customers that it was okay to throw the shells on the floor. At the time, people thought this was a lot of fun. However, today, people think clowns are creepy, and peanut allergies are now a huge concern. By 2005, almost half of their restaurant locations were shut down. Today, there are only 25 left in existence.
7. Howard Johnson’s
Howard Johnson’s was founded all the way back in the year 1925, and it is also a hotel chain. The restaurants were originally apart of hotels, but they eventually broke off into independent eateries, making it one of the longest-lasting restaurant chains in American history. In the 1970’s, Howard Johnson’s had grown to be massive, and it one of the most popular restaurants in the United States. People recognized the iconic orange roof from far away, and they knew that they could go there for some good food. At its peak, there were 1,000 locations. The brand began to lose is strength after the ownership was passed to several different companies. Today, there are only two locations left- Lake George, New York, and Bangor, Maine.
6. Pollo Tropical
Pollo Tropical was founded in 1988 in Miami, Florida. It expanded to several other states in the US, and even made its way into Latin America, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands. In 1998, it was sold to Carroll’s Restaurant Group, which also owns Burger King. In 2016 alone, they opened an additional 53 locations. However, that same year, though, they reported that it was losing $4.5 million per quarter. Basically, Pollo Tropical had hit its plateau, and over the next two years, they closed down just as many locations as they had opened. Is an inability to grow a sign that they will eventually shut down? Probably not. But only time will tell.
You probably recognize Qdoba. It’s a casual Mexican restaurants, and as recently as 2017, they had 700 restaurants open, and they had $820 million in sales. But just one year later, in 2018, it was sold for just $305 million. Ouch. It just goes to show how some businesses can go downhill practically overnight. In 2019, a few locations have begun to close across the United States. While it is still in the beginning stages of decline, it is very possible that the number of Qdoba restaurants will begin to dwindle in the coming years.
4. Kenny Roger’s Roasters
The restaurant businessman, John Y. Brown Jr., was on a roll with making Kentucky Fried Chicken a huge success. So he decided to keep going with making chicken restaurants. This time, he approached the country singer Kenny Rogers to see if he wanted to open the food chain in 1991 under his name. Throughout the 1990’s, Kenny Roger’s Roasters became extremely popular, and it was even featured in a 1996 episode of Seinfeld. The red roaster sign is hung just outside of Kramer’s apartment window, which makes his entire apartment red. He tries to retaliate, only to become addicted to their delicious chicken. Today, though, all of the locations in the United States have gone out of business. However, there are still a few locations open in Malaysia.
3. Gino’s Hamburger
Gino Marchetti was a professional football player in the NFL who played for the Baltimore Colts. In 1958 and 1959, he lead his team to the NFL championships. After his name and face were all over the newspapers, he decided to take advantage of his fame by opening a chain of restaurants. At its peak, they opened 350 locations across the United States. For years, the restaurant actually disappeared, because it was purchased by Marriott Corp, who owned Roy Rogers. So all of the Gino’s locations were converted. However, in 2010, the brand came back as Gino’s Burgers & Chicken. There are two locations open in the Baltimore area, where some locals still remember the glory of Gino Marchetti.
2. York Steak House
In the 70’s and 80’s, you could go to many east-coast shopping malls in the United States and find a restaurant called York Steak House. The theme of the restaurant was King Arthur and the Knight of the Round Table. Instead of sitting down and waiting to be served, you would go to ask for your food as if you were ordering from a cafeteria, before returning to your table. But by 1989, many of the restaurants lost their charm, and every single one of them shut down, except for the location in Columbus, Ohio.
1. Ollie’s Trolley
John Y. Brown Jr. was a businessman who discovered Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken, and partnered with him to take the chain to the next level. In the 1970’s, he found a small spiced burger restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida. He thought the burger was so delicious, he was convinced that this would be his next big thing. Excited to get started, Brown promised the owner, Oliver Gelichenhaus, that they would make the “World’s Greatest Hamburger” even bigger than KFC. They opened 100 “Ollie’s Trolley” locations across the United States. However, there were a few problems. The restaurants were small, and made to look like trolley cars. So they did not have drive-thrus. Even just that small inconvenience was enough for people to choose places like McDonald’s and Burger King instead. Today, there are only 3 locations left.