Home Business Fan-Favorite Restaurants That Closed Their Doors For Good

Fan-Favorite Restaurants That Closed Their Doors For Good

Monica June 29, 2023

Everyone loves eating out with friends and family at a good restaurant. When a new restaurant does well, franchise owners usually open up numerous locations around town or even the country with the hopes of making millions. Sometimes, it’s up to luck if the restaurant succeeds or not. If there’s little to no competition, chances are the restaurant will do well. Other times, competition sneaks in and the restaurant’s profits plummet.

When that happens, it’s a sad day for those business owners. The cold, hard truth of the matter is that the restaurant business is a cutthroat one. We curated a list of restaurants that previously made their way into the hearts and stomachs of people for a while. Eventually, however, they had to close their doors for good, whether it was due to the pandemic, finances, or competition. Either way, we miss these restaurants of days past. Remember your favorite restaurants of yesteryear that were forced to close up shop here.

Herald Weekly

Kenny Rogers Roasters

Kenny Rogers Roasters made their impact on the 1990s by opening up their first restaurant in Florida. The restaurant chain was owned by country star Kenny Rogers. Despite his fame, the chain didn’t survive. At its peak, there were 350 locations, but by 2011, every location closed in America. An episode of Seinfeld helped it make its way to fame in 1996, but they were bankrupt by 1998. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though. Kenny Rogers Roasters survived in Asia, though they’re not associated with the country star anymore. By 2011, there were nearly 140 locations across Asia (via Business Insider).


Howard Johnson’s

Better known as ‘Hojo’s,’ this franchise became one of the largest restaurant chains in the ’70s. These restaurants had 28 different types of ice cream, iconic orange roofs, and unique building designs. ‘Mad Men’ even recreated the restaurant to film a scene. They had thousands of locations across the nation. But after reaching their peak, they fell behind their competitors because their food was too basic compared to the other franchises out there. One restaurant, located on Lake George, was famous among locals. But eventually, they closed too, and even one fan wrote, “Lake George is officially dead. Cobwebs on the door. Right before Memorial Day rush up here.” (via CNN).



Chi-Chi’s came to town in the ’70s. 20 years later, the franchise already had 210 restaurants across the nation. Unfortunately, there was a Hepatitis A breakout in 2003 in one of their establishments, which negatively affected their economy. At least four people died and 600 got sick from green onions they had served. The company struggled to regain its previous title. They started selling their real estate to Outback Steakhouse and others. In regards to the outbreak, Chief Officer Bill Zavertnik said, “I want to assure the public that we’ve taken every possible action to ensure the public health and safety. There is currently no industry-accepted means of testing products for the hepatitis A virus, and beyond that, there is no possible way to wash hepatitis A off contaminated green onions.” (via CBS News).

Work and Money

Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour

If you wanted ice cream back in the ’70s, Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour was the place to go. By the ’80s, the chain had grown to over 130 locations. But later on in the decade, most of those restaurants closed. By 2016, every single location was shut down. The Facebook page Yesterday in America commented on the ice cream parlor’s closure: “Some of the sundaes were huge and intended for a group to share. The largest, the “Zoo” sundae, was delivered with great fanfare by multiple employees carrying it wildly around the restaurant on a stretcher accompanied by the sound of ambulance sirens.” Those glory days of ice cream are long gone. All we have is the memories and nostalgia (via Facebook).



Everyone loves buffet-style restaurants, especially when the food is guilt-free. This San Diego chain operated nearly 100 restaurants and did exceptionally well for almost 50 years. But once the pandemic hit, they suffered. People looked down on buffets, especially with the potential to spread COVID. No one could order takeout, either. May 2020 was the last time this chain operated because it couldn’t shift its social distancing, safe eating model. CEO John Haywood said, “The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it. We could’ve overcome any other obstacle, and we’ve worked for eight weeks to overcome these intermittent financial challenges but it doesn’t work if we are not allowed to continue our model.” Unfortunately, they had to shut down all chains, including 44 located in California (via San Diego Union-Tribune).

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Founded in 1978, D’Lites was quite the delight. It took less than one decade for the fast-food chain to expand to hundreds of locations across the nation. Unfortunately, their food was delicious and certainly not nutritious. For a while, they couldn’t offer their customers healthier food options and soon business plummeted. They tried changing their menu to cater to the more health-conscious, but this didn’t help. This was around when Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s sprung into business. They didn’t expect healthier eating trends to make their way into the market, and soon other businesses succeeded that offered both fast food and unhealthy food. One by one, they closed every store location until they were finally closed for good (via Watch Mojo).

Jerry’s Famous Deli

Jerry’s Famous Deli

There’s nothing better than a New York-style deli, especially Jerry’s Famous Deli. Their sandwiches hit the spot, especially late in the evening after a night out at the bar. The chains had celebrity-signed paraphernalia in several famous locations. Unfortunately, the pandemic aided in all these restaurants’ final closure. Marianne Long, an employee at the deli for more than two decades, said, “It’s sad, and an end of an era of great customers and great food and employees who care about each other.” People even lined up outside to munch on the last of the famous deli’s sandwiches (via Daily News).


Beefsteak Charlie’s

This franchise first swung open its doors back in 1910 in Manhattan. It rose to fame by luring its customers in with all-you-can-eat shrimp and salad. How could anyone say no to that? But they loved their customers so much that eventually, they couldn’t make a profit. They were giving too much away, and unfortunately, that doesn’t work in business. They couldn’t keep up with their losses, even though their slogan promised their customers they would get spoiled. By closing in 1987, they’d reached over 60 locations (via Tasting Table).


Steak and Ale

In 1966, Steak and Ale opened in Dallas, Texas. Because it was so different, customers liked the ambiance and vibes. They served affordable steak and started offering free meals and discounted prices. This worked for some time until eventually their plan failed and they went bankrupt. But only recently, their founders are trying to bring it back and there’s a chance Steak and Ale will return. Paul Mangiamele acquired the restaurant and said, “We wanted to keep the same vibe, the same ambiance, the same energy. It was hard to replicate and still keep the integrity of the brand sound. People harken to the days when people can have a great experience and don’t have to spend a lot of money. The evolution of the affordable steakhouse category is ready for the reintroduction.” Keep your eyes peeled for new Steak and Ale restaurants in your area (via Restaurant Business Online).



Mexican restaurants were all the rage in the 1970s. When Naugles popped up in Southern California, people couldn’t get enough. They eventually merged with Del Taco even though they’d reached around 200 locations. Eventually, they abandoned the name Naugles. Only recently are new founders trying to bring back the Naugles franchise, though it’s up to speculation (via LA Eater).

Herald Weekly

Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse

In 1966, founders opened up Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse in New Jersey. People fell in love with the restaurants, and by the 1990s, they had locations in neighboring states. But they quickly reached their peak and saw a downfall soon after, even though they had 47 locations open. In 2010, the owner filed for bankruptcy, which means no more delicious salads, juicy hamburgers, juicy steak, or prime rib anymore. As of 2020, they only had one location open thanks to the pandemic (via Eat This).


Yankee Doodle Dandy

This franchise started in Illinois in 1966 and reached its peak quickly. They were closed by the 1980s. The owner tried moving the fast food chain to casual dining, but that didn’t even work. Lewis Beckwith Jr, who gave birth to the franchise in the 1950s, said, “It’s been a difficult run,” Beckwith, the owner of the Doodle, said. “It was a really difficult decision — it wasn’t something I just woke up and decided to do.” Many of their restaurants were eventually converted into other chains. They tried to save the franchise until eventually giving up (via Yale Daily News).

Herald Weekly

Roadhouse Grill

In 1992, John Y. Brown created a steakhouse that changed the lives of thousands of people’s dinner plans. You could find these chains down interstate interchanges across Eastern America. It was originally located in West Palm Beach, Florida. But an inevitable downfall came soon and in 2007 it claimed bankruptcy. Years later, it closed all 20 of its locations and the last location standing was shut down thanks to COVID. The owners announced this closure on Facebook, saying “It’s with a heavy heart and a great deal of regret, we are forced to close down. This decision was not made lightly but as a result of multiple shutdowns and a drastic reduction of business we can no longer operate at a loss without any hope for the future.” Roadhouse Grill lived its life fast (via WGRZ).

Herald Weekly

Casa Bonita

This chain of Mexican restaurants started in Oklahoma City in 1968. The founder, Bill Waugh, served good foods in a kid-friendly ambiance, which is what had people coming back for you. Most of their locations around the nation closed down except one. They also gained a bit of popularity thanks to one episode in South Park. This is where the entire family could eat huge portions and watch live shows with circus performers. Even before the pandemic came along, the restaurant was failing. Since closing, one location in particular in Colorado had visitors even though it wasn’t open thanks to the South Park episode (via CBS News). Ironically, the founders of South Park have recently bought the chain and brought it back to life in Denver.

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This Irish restaurant started in 1976 in Atlanta, Georgia, an up-and-coming city at the time. Unfortunately, many other restaurants had the same style and menu, so it didn’t necessarily catch on. Many locations around the nation began to close, and now only about 23 exist in the USA. Others filed for bankruptcy and couldn’t stay afloat. One Bennigan’s waiter called Steve, said, “Business has been slow. I went from making a lot of money on a shift to making very little.” He, like many other servers, relied on tips but did not make enough because of the lack of business (via NBC News).

Herald Weekly


You may have eaten a cup of frozen yogurt at a TCBY location as a kid. Frozen yogurt is a healthier alternative to ice cream and in the ’80s was all the rage. They reached thousands of locations until they filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and had to close a majority of them. Still, around 405 locations existed as of 2011, though it’s nothing in comparison to what they used to own. Competition in the frozen yogurt industry prompted a lot of closures for TCBY. Richard Daspit Sr., who acquired the store in 2004, said, “There are 53 establishments that sell frozen yogurt in Baton Rouge right now. When I first got into this business, we were the only frozen yogurt in town.” They were the first franchise to set the trend and the rest eventually caught on (via WAFB).

Burger Beast

Royal Castle

These mini-burgers were much like their counterpart White Castle. In the mid-1960s, they had over 200 locations across the nation. It lasted until 1969 when it was then acquired by Performance Systems. The restaurant business faltered and eventually sold off its assets. Luckily, there is one location left in Miami. Jeffery Weiss, from Miami Herald, said, “They were round – unlike their square, northern White Castle counterparts – perhaps two half dollars wide and not much thicker, fried to within an inch of their lives and topped with minced fried onions and a couple of pickle slices.” If you weren’t hungry before, you probably are now (via Burger Beast).


Bresler’s Ice Cream

There’s nothing wrong with a selection of 31 flavors of ice cream, but what if we told you there was once a franchise with 33 flavors of ice cream? In the 1920s, William Bresler created Bresler’s Ice Cream in Illinois. The decades ahead saw success and fortune, as his restaurants spread across the nation. After 80 years of business, Bresler called it quits once more competition came to the market. Still, he had quite a successful franchise, so there’s no saying if Bresler will return in the future (via UPI).

Trip Advisor

Country Cookin

There’s a reason they say come to the South for comfort food. Virginia is the birthplace of Country Cookin, founded in 1981 as a place to bring Southern cuisine altogether. They did well and had dozens of locations throughout Virginia. But once COVID hit, their profits plummeted, and they fell victim to the pandemic much like many other restaurants around the world. In October 2020, they closed their doors for good and more than 400 employees were laid off (via WSLS).

Democrat and Chronicle

Red Barn

Red Barn lives up to its name. It’s hard to mistake Red Barn for any other restaurant since it was an icon in the US during its peak. It had 400 locations around the nation but there’s only one location left in Wisconsin and it’s now called The Farm. They were known for being coast to coast. Customer Kathleen Wilkin recalls, “As a high school kid who worked after school and weekends across the street from the Chili Ave. Red Barn, it was a treat to go there on a lunch or dinner break. At that age, it was ‘fine dining.'” Back then, fine dining came from fast food chains offering mouthwatering meals (via Democrat and Chronicle).



In earlier years, ESPN Zone was one of the best restaurants for arcade games, beer, grilled food, and sports. There was nothing more American than ESPN Zone. It originally opened in 1988, and even though its business only lasted two decades, it was a busy two decades. In 2010, only two locations remained, and in 2018, the final location closed its doors for good thanks to economic issues (via Afro).


Mr. Steak

It’s difficult to franchise a steak joint. People like fresh steak, and if you’re far away from a stockyard, it starts becoming problematic. Nevertheless, the owners did a great job and opened 300 locations around the nation. But once they started expanding their menu, it drove people away. By 2009, their business was completely fried and the last location shut down after 32 years of business. Fans mourned the closure of the business, and some even said they never had a bad steak at Mr. Steak. Their loyal customers are what kept the business alive, and throughout the years, many locations hosted birthday parties and other celebrations (via In Forum).


Tasty Made

Thanks to the success of Chipotle, they tried to make a sister restaurant serving burgers. Tasty Made high deliciously high hopes. They envisioned a burger that would surpass those found at Shake Shack and Five Guys. Even though they dreamt big and tried to open up a second location, their business completely plummeted before the second location completely opened its doors (via Lancaster Eagle Gazette).


Good Earth

William and Nancy Galt jumped on the health food bandwagon before it was even popular. That’s when William made Good Earth, to serve up health food counteracting that was found at other popular fast food restaurants that were detrimental to people’s health. However, only a few years into the business, General Mills purchased the restaurant and since 2012, Good Earth was no longer in existence. You can still purchase Good Earth Tea, however (via Saanich News).


Eatza Pizza

Eatza Pizza tried to promote an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. They had over 100 restaurants across the nation, but eventually, their economy plummeted. Steve Cooms, senior editor from PizzaMarket.com, talked about the failure of buffet businesses and said, “It’s a risky business. I’m sure a lot of people think the buffet concept seems simple, but in many ways, it’s much more baffling than just a straight delivery (and) carry-out or a straight sit-down pizzeria.” Charging per person at a pizza buffet instead of per slice has its downfalls. By 2008, all of their locations were shut down (via East Valley Tribune).