Even before the global pandemic that we are currently facing started to leave its big mark on our lives, restaurants, and restaurant chains all over the world had been going through periods of uncertainty. Most of the uncertainty was due to rising costs of labor and a shift in consumer tastes, but the pandemic has further complicated whatever strategies were being set up to ensure survival.
As such, some restaurants might be forced to permanently close down. Unfortunately, this problem is also faced by many of the major chains we have grown to love. Here are 68 restaurant chains that are riding on the edge and may have even fallen over.
Having opened in the 1980s, this full-service restaurant chain became known in the following decades for its focus on casual, American dishes such as salads, burgers and pasta. This popularity, however, didn’t last forever and following declines in sales, they were forced to close some of their locations.
A merger with IHOP and a subsequent change of name to DineEquity was meant to be a game changer for the fortunes of this chain but neither that nor a raft of changes and innovations to their services has done the trick. In 2017, they closed between 105 and 135 locations.
Owned by Bloomin’ Brands, this restaurant chain specializes in providing Italian American dishes to its customers. Its family style service brought it a lot of popularity, and these translated into many branches spread across the country. Also, despite being founded in Houston, Texas, the company is now headquartered in Tampa, Florida.
The early popularity and expansion aside though, Carraba’s has been going through a rough patch as of late and this has resulted in tens of locations being closed. The global health situation hasn’t helped their condition either, but it is hoped that expansions into Canada and other countries like Brazil would provide a much-needed boost.
Sbarro is a pizzeria chain that also deals with other Italian American cuisine. The first restaurant in this chain was founded over 60 years ago and while they were originally very popular, even maintaining their popularity till as recently as the early 2000s, there have been troubles for a while now.
Some of their business troubles had to do with the quality of their food and business model. Sbarro has always offered sit in service, and they do not run deliveries. They also made their bones by tethering their service to mall food courts. As such, decline in the popularity of these food courts have affected them negatively, resulting in the chain having to close almost half of their locations.
The first Ruby Tuesday opened in 1972 and two of the features that helped the chain to slowly garner popularity with customers were the casual dining and the fact that all their restaurants served cocktails and wines, all made from fresh ingredients, just like their food.
However, over the years, the standards of this chain have been dropping and the freshness becoming less obvious. As a result, the owners, NRD Capital, have been closing tens of locations to stay sustainable. Despite their best efforts to also build optimism about the future of the company, Ruby Tuesday filed for Chapter 11 in 2020 and unless their fortunes change in the near future, the future is looking quite red.
This is one of the oldest fast-food chains in the country. Krystal was established in 1932 in Tennessee and has remained very popular in the South. The history of this restaurant chain is checkered with colorful anecdotes and a willingness to adapt to the prevailing dietary trends and needs of the times. This adaptability has not been able to steer the company from financial hardship though.
The financial struggles faced by Krystal have resulted in the company filing for bankruptcy in 2020. This comes after two decades of growth that once saw the chain have as many as 420 locations before downsizing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic might just be the final stone for this Krystal back.
Once upon a time, when the robust cocktails were more popular and restaurant chains were thriving, Bar Louie was a well-known spot. These days, it doesn’t look like it will be around for much longer.
The chain still boasts of some 73 locations in hotels and entertainment venues, but these locations are a far cry from the 134 they once had, and their numbers are expected to shrink even further in the coming years. In 2020, the company filed for bankruptcy and despite hopes that they’d be able to kick on once they reemerged. The global pandemic currently being faced has only made their position more tenuous.
In the modern world of healthier eating and weight-watching, many restaurants and fast-food franchises or chains have fallen victim to the rapidly changing taste of their customers, and Houlihan’s appears to be one of those doomed by the needs of the younger generations.
Following attempts at expansion during the first two decades of this century, the holding company of the restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy. They attributed the filing to the inability of the company to adapt to the shifting labor market and some other operation-related factors. Regardless of the reasons though, they don’t look like they will be surviving this phase.
You know this one. From the references made to their name to their scantily clad waiting staff, the Hooters franchise has long been very popular and has recently been a target of debate and anger from proponents of feminist agendas.
Hooters has suffered from a decline in sales and revenue in recent years. This even led to the company taking a step back from their long running “Hooter girls” marketing to rebrand some of their locations as “Hoots.” These new locations feature male and female waiting staff in more modest uniforms. It is hoped that these changes coupled with expansion into the global markets will reverse their fortunes.
When it was founded in 1985, Boston Market was known as Boston Chicken, but it underwent a name change in the mid ‘90s. Over the years, the company has changed hands a couple of times with the current owners being the Rohan Group.
The fortunes of the company have, however, fallen over the years and a change in ownership has struggled to stem the decline. At their peak, the Boston Market boasted over 1,000 locations but as of 2020, there were only 346 of those left. A Middle East expansion has been touted but that would hardly help the fortunes within the U.S.
Papa Johns are another popular pizzeria that experienced a lot of success in its early years. It was founded in 1984 by John Schnatter, and it has been speculated by many that their decline started because of a couple of controversies surrounding their owner.
One of the controversies came with one of its most popular sponsors, the NFL, which led to a break in their relationship. Others had to do with the use of racial slurs. Despite the damage to their brands caused by both, this restaurant chain was able to secure fresh investments, and it is the hope of all those who love this iconic pizzeria that they survive this period.
Having been around for 48 years, this is one of those restaurant chains that has grown on us, but the general shift in dietary preference and increased focus on healthier eating has meant that the all-you-can-eat buffet and grill service that once made the Golden Corral very popular is now very unpopular.
Other hits to their company have come in the forms of health worries as a result of infectious outbreaks. These worries called into question just how safe their food was, and their brand has never truly recovered since then. It was hoped that their efforts at rebranding would be lifesaving but the COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated their situation.
Ponderosa, along with its sister chain Bonanza, used to make up some of the most popular steak houses in the country. They made a killing in the post-recession period of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but following their own bout with the 2008 recession, they haven’t been the same for a while.
The parent company of the steakhouses filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and reemerged as Home-Style Dining LLC. However, it never recovered fully and was sold to FAT brands in 2017 but this didn’t stop the closure of more Ponderosa Steakhouse locations.
This restaurant franchise has been around since the 1930s and offers full 24-hour service, seven days a week. They offered a hybrid of sit down, drive-thru, and front window services which contributed to their success. The company also underwent expansion into the European and Middle Eastern markets.
However, their revenue has declined sharply in the last decade because of increased competition and rising debts. Despite efforts at rebranding, it is hard to see this long running chain surviving this period especially after the extra problems caused by the global pandemic.
As recently as 2009, this restaurant chain that originated in Houston had almost 140 locations spread around the country and would probably have been looking at more expansion opportunities. Today, only 44 of these locations are left (in 18 states) and they are currently running at a loss.
They filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and shut down some 40-something locations in 2017 just as they expected new ownership to take over control. This was meant to signal a new dawn for the chain, but it only further worsened their position as anger on the part of employees and rising prices have just about condemned the once popular franchise.
Noodles & Company was created by its founder due to a perceived shortage of restaurants that provided noodle dishes to Americans, and within the first few years, they experienced rapid growth having as much as 37 locations after 6 years. The company even went public in 2013 and became even more profitable.
However, the profitable days seem to be behind them, and they have been reported to be closing underperforming locations and opening new ones. The fact that they seem to be closing more than they are opening indicates that things are not going as smoothly as expected.
As earlier implied, buffet style services and restaurants were very popular back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and one of the best-known outfits offering this service was the Old Country Buffet that opened in 1983. The popularity of the Old Country Buffet was obvious in how profitable they were and at their peak, they had about 700 locations nationwide.
All feats must end though, and this one has ended badly. Health code violations, shifting dietary needs of the populace and multiple bankruptcies have crippled the chain. Earlier this year, the very last of the buffet locations were closed and most have been auctioned off already.
From existing solely as a bakery to transitioning to a restaurant, the Cheesecake Factory had a fairytale run over the first few decades of its existence, and this culminated in the chain even expanding into foreign markets. They seemed unstoppable at some point.
Fast forward to 2020, after the outbreak of the pandemic, their situation is not as safe or as profitable as it once was. Rising costs of labor and a change in dining habits have taken a toll on their fortunes, with the company even suffering some legal problems for misleading investors. They are not done yet, but the future is uncertain.
Everything about this chain is casual, from its origins to its style and even its name is a retooling of the casual expression, “thank God it’s Friday.”. Back when the first few locations opened, it was a popular spot with the younger generation, and its popularity was boosted by favorable magazine reviews.
This popularity hasn’t extended to the younger generation of today quite as well, and they have struggled, even recording a major loss in revenue in 2019. Nowadays, they have been trying to purchase and rebrand underperforming franchises while tinkering with their menus as well. We will have to wait and see if this chain survives its hard times.
The very first of the Red Robins went up in 1969, and at that time it catered to students at the University of Washington. After a few years of tinkering with burger menus and solidifying a business concept, the owner decided to franchise, and the business took off.
In recent years though, poor patronage and rising costs of labor have led to the Red Robin to struggle; the company even posted a loss in 2018. Recently, experts have indicated that this chain is among some of the most likely chain of restaurants to file for bankruptcy, and if this happens, it might be the end of the road for all Red Robins.
Friendly’s started out as an ice cream manufacturer and grew into a favorite spot for families looking to enjoy a meal and ice cream. Founded back in 1935, by the turn of this century, the company was already well established in the East but had not made much progress expanding westward.
By the time 2011 came along, changing customer tastes combined with the lack of sufficient growth to result in a bankruptcy filing, but even after emerging from the filing protection, they still had to close more locations. Despite having new owners today, the future of this restaurant chain is still uncertain.
This is arguably one of the most popular restaurant chains specializing in Mexican food in the country, but it has not been around for that long. Established in 1995, the company tried to facilitate healthier feeding from the get-go and they were very popular for it. They experienced significant growth over their first few years, but things have been less green as of late.
To their credit, the company has made changes to their marketing strategy to improve their sluggish performance, but health scares and annual losses in revenue have combined to reduce the number of locations they possess.
A story-worthy founding story that involved the owners of the iconic franchise deciding to start their own restaurant is one of the things that made the Buffalo Wild Wings unique. Another was it being a favorite spot for college sports lovers. By 1999, the company had amassed 100 locations nationwide and over the next few years it added another 111.
However, price increases due to rising labor costs enraged customers and the loss in sales that resulted pushed the company to sell some locations to franchises. Although the company still has over 1,000 locations, their position is looking less secure than it was a decade ago.
Both chains involved in the merger that brought about this super chain have been around for more than 30 years. Together, they are one of largest drive-thru restaurant chains in the United States, and their customer base largely stayed loyal because of the quality of the fries, burgers, and milkshakes they were known for.
Over the years, though, their reputation has been hit hard by health code violations and this has contributed to their slumping sales. The company was still fighting through this before the pandemic hit and it’s hard to see how they might recover in the coming years.
A report released by the company a few years ago perfectly summed up its fortunes in the market. It was indicated in the said report that the hundreds of locations in the company should be operating at a loss for the year covered. This should not necessarily come as a surprise as they had received a lot of bad press due to the reported unhealthy nature of their food.
The company has taken this one on the chin though and has countered with a determination to improve the quality of their food while enhancing customer experience as well. It should be said though, that whether the customers come back as a result is still up for debate.
The popularity of the Hollywood star who started this restaurant chain in the ‘60s definitely aided the initial success, but the quality of the service they offered was what made the venture into a 600+ location chain by the ‘90s.
The sale of the company to Imasco proved to be a blow to its popularity when many of the locations within the chain were renamed. By 2019, this once iconic chain of restaurants had gone from having over 600 locations to having just 48. Today, the number of locations still active has fallen to 46.
Another Mexican-style restaurant chain, the Baja Fresh also has a feature unique to all their restaurants and this is their self-serve salsa bar. Their emphasis on using fresh ingredients also proved a big selling point early on.
After the sale of the chain to Wendy’s at the beginning of this century, their profitability started to drop and within 4 years, the company had been resold again for about 900% less than the purchase price. Today, the restaurant chain that once had 300 locations under its name can now boast of only about 160, and one can only wonder how much longer they will exist.
Having been founded 42 years ago in San Antonio, Texas, this restaurant chain grew to possess 150 locations within a decade of its existence. The focus on hamburgers and large, freshly made hamburgers especially proved very popular with customers during this time.
However, following the exit of their founder and developing force, Philip J. Romano in 1988, the growth of the chain has struggled to match the early gains made. Things truly started to change for the worse following the 2008 recession and despite being under the Luby’s name now, there are only 99 locations left in the chain.
By 2019, this restaurant chain had 175 locations under its name. This figure represented a steep decline from the 201 locations it had in 2018 and an even more ominous indication considering the chain had 213 in 2016. It is obvious to all that the company is on the decline.
Its once popular Southern-style appeal has been blotted out by poor marketing and declining food quality. Their position has not been helped by a checkered legal history including racial discrimination filings, customer safety complaints, and defaulting on wage payments. It’s hard to see a way back, but who know what the future holds?
Quiznos is a fast-food restaurant that was founded in 1981 and has its headquarters in Colorado. It specializes in toasted submarine sandwiches and has built quite a following over the first 25 years of its existence. Since then, their road has been way bumpier.
To sum up their decline: The restaurant chain, which once had an estimated 5,000 locations globally now has only about 500 left. The decline was partly triggered by the financial bombs of 2008, but the chain has only fallen further from the top this past decade. At this point, it’s hard to see a way back.
The first location of this chain was opened in 1977, and before 1990 the chain had expanded to include 334 more locations. By 2014, the Bojangles restaurant chain was boasting 600 locations and its specialization on fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits was still reaping dividends.
Though the company still has over 700 locations, they are less popular than they once were. This has been exemplified over the years by plummeting stock prices and changing dietary patterns. A chicken shortage in the first half of the year prompted more ridicule, and this couldn’t have done much good to the company’s reputation.
The International House of Pancakes has long specialized in breakfast food and around the ‘80s, they expanded their services to also provide lunch and dinner options as well. In recent years, though, their relationship with Applebee’s is perhaps a more accurate indicator of their corporate health.
The IHOP chain was forced to close between 30 and 40 locations in 2019 and although they still have approximately 1,800 locations globally, the decline of Applebee’s and the closures are pointing towards decreasing popularity. We’ll have to wait and see how their rebranding efforts pan out before making any conclusions.
Back when the world wasn’t so conscious of how healthy the food going into their mouths was, Luby’s was very popular. Its popularity is perhaps most evident in how the chain grew to possess 200 locations by 1996, up from the 100 locations it had a decade earlier.
After the recession of 2008 though, the company started to falter. Attempting to buy Fuddruckers and some other restaurant chains failed to improve their fortune and by 2015, they had only 93 active locations. Today, the number is down to 77.
There are not many restaurant chains that can approach Taco Bell in reputation; it was so popular that it was estimated to serve 2 billion customers yearly in 2018. However, popularity fades, and the fortunes of Taco Bell are not 100% secure.
Back in 2019, before the pandemic struck, the company closed six of its locations. This isn’t much to go on, but for a global chain that only two years earlier announced plans to open 300 more locations, it is ominous. It would be a while before we know just how much worry this closure merits attention as the chain still has over 7,000 locations globally.
Another of the submarine sandwich specialists, Subway was originally founded in 1965 as Pete’s Super submarines and following little growth, a franchise operation kicked off in 1974. From then onwards, the company grew to become a global giant and even one of the first restaurant chains to offer healthier options.
Though the company is still the single largest restaurant chain in the world, it closed about 1,300 locations in 2017 and 2018. Rebranding efforts are still underway to make the brand more appealing to a younger demographic after their drop in revenue was attributed to shifting consumer tastes and competition from innovative start-ups.
The first Marie Callender’s was opened after the initial success of a wholesale bakery run by the Callender family, and within five years of the 1964 opening, 12 more locations had been added. By the time the ‘70s were riding into the ‘80s, they had 84 locations on their books.
However, following the death of Don Callender in 2009, the company started to experience a decline and in 2011, 31 Marie Callender’s were closed. Though the chain still seems to be in dangerous waters, it is hoped that recent upturns in fortune will hold long enough to save this restaurant chain.
McCormick & Schmick’s (Schmicks or Schmucks)
The original restaurant within this chain of seafood restaurants was opened in 1979, and it took the company until 2004 before it went public. What followed was more growth leading to the restaurant chain boasting about 100 locations by 2009.
In 2012, the company was taken private again after a change of ownership. After being sold yet again in 2016, its fortunes have never been the same. The chain currently has only 26 locations left, and it doesn’t look like they will ever be getting back to the level they once occupied.
Health-related problems are some of the most feared issues any restaurant can face, and Chipotle’s has had multiple key publications and individuals imply and even prove that its food isn’t very safe. As expected, that has done a lot of damage to the brand image.
As such, despite the love of many Americans for Mexican-style food, few have been willing to patronize this once popular brand, and the number has reduced with each successive safety issue. Regardless, the company still owns about 2,600 locations, but it should be noted that they closed 65 of those in 2019 and 2020, and many of their newer concepts have failed to take off.
Well, even the biggest can stumble or fall. Burger King has learned this the hard way. Having been one of the most recognizable names in the fast-food sphere for a long time, the company doesn’t seem to be doing too well nowadays. It still possesses some 17,000+ locations but that number was much higher a few years back.
To help restructure the business and improve its performance, the company was delisted but this hasn’t had the intended effect, with the management resorting to closing down 250 locations in 2019 as a means of relieving some of their financial pressure.
Having been founded by two brothers 63 years ago, Pizza Hut grew to contain six locations within the first 18 months of its existence. From then, the restaurant chain grew to be the largest pizza chain in the world and one of the largest restaurant chains ever.
It has experienced its ups and downs during this ride to the top such as the sales drops in the mid-2010s, but the company has always resorted successfully to rebranding to solve its issues. This was until it closed 300 locations in 2019 and announced that the number of closed restaurants could still rise to 500 by 2021. Again, even the biggest can stumble… or fall.
Carl’s Jr. started out as a husband and wife running a single hot dog cart in 1941 and by 1945, they were selling their four hot dog carts to open a full-service restaurant. By 1956, they had three restaurants and by the ‘60s, the family had 24 restaurants bearing their name.
The company that was an innovator in the food industry for decades has struggled to adapt sufficiently to the prevailing dietary trends of the modern world. This and claims of discrimination against older employees may have contributed to their number of locations crashing from 1,490 in the United States in 2017 to just over 1,000 today.
This is an upscale restaurant chain that serves American cuisine and sushi. It was originally founded in 1998 and by 2005, it went public. At the end of the same year, the restaurant already boasted nine locations and come 2014, that number was up to 26.
In 2014, they were ranked among the fastest growing restaurants, but the very next year, their sales started to slide. Expansions into foreign markets couldn’t save them and by 2019, they filed for bankruptcy. They still have 40 locations under their belt, and it is hoped that reemergence from bankruptcy will mark a new dawn.
Perkins was founded in 1958 as a single pancake house in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was initially called Smithie’s Pancake House. Perkins was known for its iconic pie, and although the company started with pancakes and waffles, it was quick to extend its offerings to American staple foods.
In 2018, Perkins celebrated 60 years of serving up home-style, comfort classics to folks with an appetite. However, its journey over the years hasn’t been all smooth. The parent company (Perkins & Marie Callender’s) filed for bankruptcy in August of 2019 and announced the closure of 29 of their under-performing restaurants. Several of its outlets in northern Pennsylvania closed the following month, and Huddle House, Inc. of Atlanta acquired all remaining Perkins restaurants.
Shortly after purchasing Starbucks in the early 1980s, Howard Schultz embarked on an aggressive expansion. Starbucks expanded to Chicago and Vancouver, Canada, and then to California, Washington, D.C., and New York. By 1996, the company crossed the Pacific to open its first store in Japan, followed by Europe in 1998 and China in 1999.
In 2020, Starbucks estimated that it would close up to 400 company-owned locations over the next 18 months. The company also unveiled its aim to accelerate the expansion of “convenience-led formats” such as curbside pickup, drive-thru, and mobile-only pickup locations. This was a result of the economic fallout and changing consumer behaviors resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For a while now, the all-you-can-eat buffet style has been dwindling in popularity, and since the early 2000s, many of these restaurant types have had to close their doors and leave the business. A fundamental problem influencing this decline is the overall change in consumer behavior.
Nowadays, it is no longer socially acceptable to gorge yourself as one is likely to do at a buffet. Also, millennials are beginning to be more conscious of their food intake health wise, and a buffet is definitely not where you’ll find fresh, healthy food.
Pie Five first opened for business in Texas in 2011. After years of creeping progress, it started to perform notably better in the market around 2015. The company had grown to a regional franchise with over 100 restaurants operational. It wasn’t to be paradise forever as most of these locations began to close just as fast as they opened.
Several factors were regarded as possible reasons for the downward spiral: poor marketing, unfavorable reviews by customers, a loss of internal control, and the final nail in the coffin – the global pandemic. Today, there are only 34 Pie Five outlets still in operation.
Eat ‘n Park is a popular staple in the Pennsylvania and Ohio areas, so it was expected that fans would be heartbroken when the family-friendly restaurant announced the closure of six locations in 2019. When the franchise began operating in Pittsburgh, in 1947, it made history as Pittsburgh’s first restaurant with carhops.
A bit of financial instability has caused the franchise to close down some locations permanently, but after the temporary lockdown in 2020, all 61 outlets continue to run as usual.
The Pollo Tropical is another restaurant chain owned by the Fiesta Restaurant Group. For a period between 2012 and 2015, the Florida-based chain seemed to enjoy a golden era. In 2014, a decision was made to move the brand to Texas, which backfired.
The move to Texas eventually failed, as the chain saw a decline in sales after the process. The slump in sales continued for three years when they started to close outlets in Texas. Gradually, the closure of Pollo Tropical units began to inch closer to home in Georgia and Florida, where a recorded total of 14 locations were shut down.
Taco Cabana was founded in 1978 in San Antonio. By 2012, they operated as a subsidiary of the parent Fiesta Restaurant Group. Problems started in 2017 when sales dropped as a result of reduced marketing. By January 2020, the Fiesta Restaurant Group announced that it would be closing 19 Texas Taco Cabanas.
The closures aimed to improve the financial situation by eliminating all stores which recorded significant losses over time, leaving a viable portfolio of restaurants. Following the mass closure, only 38 Taco Cabana stores are still running in New Mexico and Texas.
Potbelly is a fast-casual restaurant that started in Chicago in 1977. At its peak, the chain had over 475 restaurants running. After years of decline, which left it behind most of its competitors, Potbelly decided on a restructuring plan in 2019. In the process, 22 of their locations were shut down permanently as they tried to expand their delivery service by partnering with Doordash.
Despite the plan, the restaurant chain has had to close more locations permanently. Chances of survival are pretty bleak as debt and the effect of the pandemic has slowed the progress of their turnaround.
Denny’s was founded in 1957 by Harold Butler and Richard Jezak under the name Danny’s Donuts. After Jezak’s departure and a series of events, it was renamed Denny’s in 1961, along with a change of operations. By 1981, it had expanded to over 1,000 restaurants in all 50 states of America.
While more than 1,500 outlets still running nationwide, 15 venues were permanently closed in May 2020. These closures were attributed to “unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19.” It was also reported that some of the closures were due to certain disputes over leasing agreements.
Tad’s Steaks started in 1957 as a drive-in that aimed to provide the working-class with a filling meal at an affordable price. At its peak, the restaurant had twenty-eight restaurants around the country, with eight of those in New York. Six decades and some odd years later, the home of the low-priced T-bone has been reduced to a single outlet in San Francisco.
The situation of Tad’s Steaks is comparable to one of those old relics which failed to keep up with the times. After failing to adapt to the home delivery system, the business was easily bodied out of the market by competitors like Uber Eats, GrubHub, and the likes.
Pieology was founded by Carl Chung in 2011 with a mission to “turn one of America’s favorite foods into an affordable and interactive experience.” The California-based fast-casual pizzeria chain allowed its customers to “custom-make” their pizzas – something you didn’t often get in your local pizzeria. At a point, the chain boasted more than 135 locations in 21 states.
In 2018 though, Pieology closed some of its locations due to a “strategic restructuring” to allow the company to focus on franchising. Reportedly, Pieology chalked up the closures to a combination of high rent and increasing minimum wage. It also claimed that the closures would allow them to invest in new and existing markets.
The Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo! Cucina Italiana are sister restaurants that until recently belonged to parent company FoodFirst Global Restaurants – which owned them for two years. The parent company filed for bankruptcy in April 2020 due to elevated food costs, labor pressure, and the global pandemic, and the restaurants seemed to go from the frying pan into the fire.
After closing down numerous venues across the country, the pair of Italian-cuisine restaurants was acquired by Earl Enterprises a few months later. There seems to be hope yet for both restaurants following the change of ownership.
Zinburger has been around for some years. The original Zinburger opened in Tucson, Arizona by Fox Restaurant in December 2007. In 2010, Briad Group opened the first East Coast location in New Jersey following the acquisition of a licensing agreement. The company developed more stores and expanded along the East Coast.
Zinburger was not spared by the pandemic. The burger and wine chain restaurant announced the permanent closure of all its restaurants except for three locations in New Jersey. The closure was a result of dwindling sales caused by the pandemic. The pandemic, no doubt, has been a critical cause for the mass closures of restaurants throughout the country.
TooJay’s started as a simple deli in Palm Beach in 1981. For forty years, the Florida-based chain served its customers as a deli, a bakery, and a home-cooking restaurant offering handcrafted sandwiches, dinner entrée, gourmet items, and other catering options.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020. Following the bankruptcy process, the company had to close down nine of its original thirty locations. By September of the same year, though, TooJay’s emerged from bankruptcy after changing ownership to a private-equity firm.
One might have come across the Benihana name from numerous pop culture references. From humble beginnings in 1964 in New York, the Japanese restaurant rose to fame as the world’s most successful Asian-themed restaurant with its novel teppanyaki style. Their highly trained chefs are known to delight customers with their fancy knifework and theatrics.
Even before the mandatory lockdown of 2020, the chain had to close down some of its venues permanently. The company’s only Sacramento restaurant had to close in February 2020, while a branch in Glasgow folded up after less than a year of operation.
Sonic has been around since 1953. The drive-in fast-food restaurant is owned by Inspire Brands, the parent company of Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. Since its inception, the company has grown exponentially. However, it has been struggling to stay in business for years with the rise of competitions and changing consumer attitudes.
The company’s quarterly report for 2018 was poor. Ten drive-in locations also closed down permanently across Pennsylvania in 2020. This resulted from the failure of the locations to secure a buyer and the breakdown of the negotiations between the company and its franchisor, Sonic Drive-In.
Initially founded in 1981 as Papa Aldo’s, the pizza company merged with a similar chain called Murphy’s Pizza in 1995, adopting the familiar name Papa Murphy’s and moving its headquarters to Vancouver. Afterward, it rapidly rose to become one of the most prominent names in American take-and-bake pizzas.
Many attribute the chain’s decline to the take-and-bake concept, as consumers increasingly prefer the convenience of ready-made pizzas rather than buying a pizza to go and cook at home. Sales plummeted, and a looming debt caused the company to shed around 10% of its restaurant units.
For five decades, the Hard Rock Café has been one of the world’s leading restaurant chains. Known for its rock and roll relic collections, the first Hard Rock Café opened in London in 1971 and began to spread worldwide in 1982.
In response to the global pandemic, the chain temporarily closed down all its venues in March 2020. Months later, one of the first locations in the United States to close its doors for good was in downtown Houston in May 2020, with other locations in Phoenix, Louisville, and California following suit later that year.
A respected name in the Texas restaurant industry, the restaurant was founded by the Pappas brothers – Chris and Harris − in 1976. Based in Houston, the family-run restaurant chain enjoyed success and has counted up to a hundred different restaurants since its inception. At one point in 2007, it was voted as one of the best steakhouses in Texas.
Sales were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as Pappas Restaurants had to close five of its restaurants in Houston – equivalent to 10% of the company’s holdings in its hometown. This reduced its nationwide units from 90 to 85.
Rubio’s Coastal Grill is another American fast-casual restaurant chain. Founded in 1983 by Ralph Rubio in his San Diego hometown, the restaurant specializes in Mexican cuisine, especially fish tacos. Things started to go downhill when the company noticed a drop in sales in 2017.
Rubio’s decline seemed to be hastened by the pandemic in 2020. While it still hasn’t closed down entirely, the 170-unit chain had to close 26 restaurants earlier in May and June 2020 due to outstanding debt and other financial constraints.
Le Pain Quotidien – the bakery and communal table also operating as an eatery − was founded as a bakery in Brussels by Alain Coumont in 1990. Since then, the bakery-restaurant has grown to an international chain with 260 outlets in 20 countries. Recognizable to its frequenters by the presence of a long, wooden, communal table, it sells baked goods, salads, sandwiches, and beverages.
The fast-casual chain seemingly had financial troubles before the pandemic hit the U.S. In May 2020, the United States division closed all 98 locations after filing for bankruptcy, with the Belgium division filing for insolvency. However, after a change of ownership, new owners, Aurify Brands have managed to reopen 35 locations in the U.S.
The Del Frisco’s Grille enjoyed its share of popularity due to numerous awards and the location of its restaurants in large cities. Since the sale of the business to another restaurant group in 2018, though, things haven’t been the same.
The Del Frisco chain was sold again in 2019 to a giant private equity firm. After the 2019 sale, the first order of business by the new owners was to select the more prosperous units of the franchise and close down the underperforming ones.
Originating in Canada before spreading its reach to the United States in the early ’80s, the chain opened its first store in 1964. After a rocky start in the U.S., the business started to expand in the mid-1990s by acquiring former locations of fast-food chains.
Since the end of 2019, the once favorite coffee and donut shop is heading towards a gradual decline. This failure is attributed to several factors, one of which is the franchise’s inability to tailor its marketing to American consumers. Another notable reason is due to competition with other independent, specialized competitors like Starbucks.
PizzaRev is a chain of pizzerias founded in 2012 and based in Los Angeles, California. Many might recognize it as one of many restaurants which operate on a craft-your-own-pizza concept. Customers move in a queue as employees assemble pizzas according to specifications, which are then cooked in three minutes using a gas-fired oven.
As a result of the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the establishment has been forced to close more than half of its outlets. Reportedly, the business suffered a rough patch prior to the pandemic as they had to cut down from 44 to 32 stores between 2016 and 2019. Now, the once prosperous pizzeria chain is down to 13 open restaurants.
Operating from 50 restaurants across three states, Specialty’s Café & Bakery offered homemade breakfast and lunch items along with their award-winning coffee. Touted as one of the fastest-growing private companies of 2011 by The San Francisco Business Times, the company was not prepared for the consequences of a mandatory lockdown.
Their doors opened for service for the last time on May 19, 2020. According to a statement on their official website, the company was closing down after 33 years of service due to market conditions attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and a loss of company revenues.
Sweet Tomatoes, better known as Souplantation, in Southern California was a chain of all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurants. Based in the United States, it started business in San Diego in 1978. Earlier in 2016, the business filed for bankruptcy as it was millions in debt. Surprisingly, the business managed to stay afloat after the sale of some company assets.
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the company to close its 97 outlets across the country. Two months later, the restaurant known for its affordable selection of meals folded up as it suffered from financial insecurity – a fate it shared with several businesses worldwide in the wake of the pandemic lockdown.
It used to be a decent place to enjoy a meal and also have fun when it started out back in the early eighties. Nowadays, crowds no longer seem to be packing the game stands of the Million Dollar Midway. Now it risks filing for bankruptcy in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Like many other businesses, 2020’s lockdown took a heavy toll on the outfit. The arcade section, which was a major source of revenue, was inaccessible to customers due to the temporary closure. The fact that they also didn’t offer delivery and takeout – like other competitors – also did little to help.