These 53 Restaurant Chains Are on the Brink of Disappearing Entirely In 2021
The restaurant industry has seen a lot of ups and downs in recent years. Most recently it has suffered greatly at the hand of the global crisis we have all been a part of. The failure of the restaurant business has come in part by the wide range of choices consumers have, as well as labor shortages and high overhead costs.
Applebee's opened its doors for the first time in 1980. It was welcomed with open arms by diners everywhere. However, over time, the restaurant chain has seen sales decline and not really pick back up. So far, Applebees has closed more than 120 of its locations, down to approximately 1,200 locations.
Carrabba's Italian Grill
Carrabba's Italian Grill is owned by Bloomin' Brands. It was founded in 1986 in the city of Houston, Texas. The restaurant is a family-style Italian spot that gained a lot of traction and produced many branches all across the country, with several hundred of them popping up.
For 20 years now, Sbarro has been around. It once saw massive success, but over the last few years seen a steady and sharp decline in their revenue. The major reason for the decline, customers say, has to do with the quality of their pizza. In addition to the quality issue, the chain is indebted to the tune of millions of dollars.
Ruby Tuesday has been around since 1972. The longtime restaurant chain was known for its unique cocktails and fresh food. Sadly, the chain has been losing a lot of their customers due to lowering standards. They are no longer known for their drinks and fresh ingredients.
Krystal is a restaurant chain famous in the South. It has menu items that will remind you of White Castle. They have 360 locations across the country but have decided to close a great many of them over the last couple of years due to financial hardship.
Bar Louie was a well-known spot for happy hour drinks and food. However, the restaurant chain has seen better days as it has gone into substantial debt and has had to close several locations because they expanded too fast.
Houlihan's was also a happy hour go-to spot. For years, the chain saw success amongst its loyal customers, but that declined eventually. They seemed to be unable to attract the younger demographics and therefore saw a massive deterioration.
It is not a huge surprise that the chain has seen better days. In the age of female empowerment, the tiny outfits do nothing to help their cause. Hooters has experienced a slow and steady decline over the last decade.
Boston Market hit its peak in the 90s with over 1,100 locations nationwide. These days, the chain has less than 400 locations left. They have not updated their menu in years, nor have they given much attention to their deteriorating locations. The younger demographic is not a fan.
Papa John's Pizza has suffered a big hit to its brand as a result of the controversy surrounding its founder, John Schattner. In 2018, Schattner blamed NFL players and their protesting of the national anthem as a reason for lower than usual pizza sales. As a result, the NFL and Papa John's went their separate ways, having the chain feel the pain of losing a major sponsorship.
One of the oldest chains around, Golden Corral originally opened its doors in the early 1970s. The all-you-can-eat buffet style used to be a massive hit with consumers. However, times are changing and people no longer desire buffet as much as they used to. The rise of health awareness had the chain take a major hit.
Ponderosa Steakhouse used to be the go-to steakhouse of the South. It offered people dishes with "the spirit of the Old West and honest-to-goodness value," as their website states. However, the economic recession that hit the United States in 2008, hurt the chain beyond repair.
Steak 'n Shake
The oldest restaurant chain here is without question Steak n' Shake. The chain has been around since 1934 and has maintained its 24/7 model ever since. They expanded from the United States to the Middle East and Europe as well. Unfortunately, over the last few years, they have been closing spots down in order to stay afloat.
Joe's Crab Shack
Just under a decade ago, Joe's Crab Shack had nearly 140 locations nationwide. Today, they have 60 locations left and are operating at a $16.6 million loss. In 2017, the chain filed for bankruptcy and shut down 41 locations without giving their employees any notice.
Noodles & Company
Noodles & Company have been in deep water for some time now. They have been slowly and quietly closing location after location that has not been profitable. In 2017, they closed 55 locations, and in 2018 they closed another 10.
Old Country Buffet
Old Country Buffet opened its doors in 1983, and was an instant hit! In the 80s and 90s, buffet-style restaurants were all the rage. They fed families well and on a relatively small budget. The chain is owned by Ovation Brands, and at one time had more than 700 locations across the country.
The Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory launched in 1972. It was first a bakery and then transitioned into a restaurant. In 1978, the move to being a fully functioning restaurant proved to be delicious and successful.
One of the most popular restaurant chains around, TGI Friday's is also not doing well. They saw a major loss in revenue in 2019 and closed many of their locations across the country. They have also seen an 11.3% decrease in sales and a 9.1% decrease in patron traffic.
The rising cost of labor and fewer customers has been the reason Red Robin is dangerously close to closing for good. In 2018, they ended the year with a loss of $10.6 million. They proceeded to close several locations, leaving 562 of them across the country.
Friendly's used to be the spot you go to with your family for a diner-style meal and delicious ice cream. At their prime, they had 500 locations across the country. However, over the last few years, the chain has lost many patrons as a result of the changes in the market, which had them close many of their restaurants.
Mexican restaurant Qdoba is another chain looking like it is in trouble. They initially launched in 1995 and were in good standing for the first 10 years or so. Over the last few years, they have truly struggled to make a profit.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings has been the spot for sports and grub for years. But when the chain raised all of their prices by 10% as a result of the rising cost of labor and food, customers were not at all pleased.
Checkers and Rally’s
The delicious fried at Checkers and Rally's has brought loyal customers back time and again. However, the chain has still been closing location after location every year. The shrinking locations have been going on as a result of lowering sales, something much of the restaurant industry has seen over the last few years.
Jack in the Box
Jack in the Box is leagues behind its major competitors - Burger King and McDonald's. A report that was released by the company itself, shared that several hundred of their locations will be operating at a loss this year, and have been for several years back.
Actor and singer Roy Rogers opened his namesake burger place in the late 60s. The restaurant turned into a massive success and by the 90s, had more than 600 locations nationwide. The chain was later sold to Imasco, their current parent company, the brand took a nosedive.
Baja Fresh Mexican Grill opened its doors in the 90s. It was considered the top of the line Mexican food and boasted over 300 locations nationwide. They used all fresh ingredients and put their 'Salsa Baja' on everything. They also had a salsa bar that appealed to many.
Fuddruckers started its burger run in the late 70s in Houston, Texas. The chain stated that they had "the world's greatest hamburgers." It seemed like people agree as the chain was incredibly popular. However, while their food was indeed wonderful, hard times hit and even they didn't stand a chance.
O'Charley's is famous for its Southern cuisine and style and got its start in the Midwest and South. The restaurant chain's sales have been steadily declining along with the decline of the quality of their food. They have also not been able to compete with the other chains and their marketing and sales efforts.
The beloved sandwich chain has seen better days since opening up in 1981. It has been the rival of another sandwich giant, Subway, since the two have been around. While Quiznos had a loyal following, many of its stores have disappeared in the last few years.
Bojangles' was once one of the most popular restaurant chains in the country. Today, they remain mostly in North and South Carolina as there is where chicken and biscuit love remains strong. The chain closed most of its locations in Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
Say it ain't so! The International House of Pancakes, where many have gone for a late-night pick me up, has been opened since 1958. However, the change in market trends and the desire for healthier food has brought this chain to its knees.
The Texas-born chain, Luby's always gave people a lot of food. They were known for their deep-frying just about everything and were very popular before the health revolution took over. You would find a Luby's on every corner, much like how you would find a Dunkin' around every corner today.
Taco Bell is suffering as a result of competition, global crisis, and over-extending their own finances. The chain needed to do some recalculating based on health trends, but kept seeing their loyal fan base come back to them. They are a pop culture symbol at this point, but that doesn't mean they are safe from disappearing.
Subway has experienced ups and downs throughout their time in the market. They were considered one of the first healthy choice restaurant chains, with brilliant marketing surrounding their healthy options. However, Americans eventually realized that not everything on their menu is as healthy as they claim.
We all know this name from the microwave pot pies that you can get at the store. What many people don't know is that Marie was real. In the 40s, Marie's pies were so popular among customers that she eventually opened up a restaurant.
McCormick & Schmick's
McCormick & Schmick's is a steak and seafood restaurant that was bought out by the same company that owns Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in 2016. Ever since the purchase, the chain saw plummeting sales. When they were bought out, they had 85 locations across the country. Today, there are only 36 locations left.
While the love for Chipotle is still very much out there, the chain is suffering greatly. Chipotle opened its doors in 1993, so they have been in the game for quite some time. That being said, health concerns have put this chain in the news where they do not want to be.
Not even the big names are safe these days. Burger King is one of the most well-known names in the fast-food game, and they are not doing too well. Burger King has closed over 100 of its locations over the last couple of years, with 2019 being the one with the most closures so far.
Pizza Hut was once a real restaurant. It would be the place for dates, birthday parties, and family nights out. Today, people prefer to spend their money on true Italian dishes from smaller restaurants.
The original Carl's Jr. was called Carl's Drive-In Barbecue and was founded in 1945. Over time, it got a name change and slight menu alterations. Sadly, Carl's Jr. has also been one of those chains that have been hard hit by the health trend changes in the market. It is only sad because seeing places close is sad, but the health trends being what they are is a welcomed change.
Kona Grill was the proud chain that brought the United States Asian cuisine. It opened in the US in 1998 and spent many years in a very profitable place. However, in 2015, sales began to drop.
Perkins first launched in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the late 50s. It became an instant hit thanks to their incredible buttermilk pancakes, which is how it got the nickname of a pancake house. The chain hit a high note for a long time, but then sadly plummeted in recent years.
There is still a Starbucks on nearly every corner in many cities, but the chain has had a rough few years and has closed many of its stores as a result. In 2019, the chain closed 150 locations, which is not much of a dent when you think of the fact that it has 30,000 locations.
Buffet style restaurants have long been on their way out. We are now much more health-conscious people, so the public is not as inclined to go to a place where the food is greasy and you have no limit to it.
Pie Five closed 8 of its locations in 2019. They have been seeing a drop in sales and needed to get a leg up on their finances. The pizza joint is now down to 65 locations from the 100 that they had in 2017.
Eat'n Park closed 6 of their locations in 2019, much to the dismay of fans everywhere. They are primarily located in Ohio and Pennsylvania and have a bit of a cult following. While the name suggests that you take the food and eat in your car, that is not indeed the case.
Pollo Tropical is owned by the Fiesta Restaurant Group. In 2018, it announced to the public that it will be shutting down 14 Pollo Tropical locations in Georgia and Florida due to low earnings.
Taco Cabana is also owned by Fiesta Restaurant Group, and they are also not doing well! In January 2020, the owners announced that they will be closing 19 Taco Cabana stores of the chain, in an effort to improve their financial margins.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
2019 was not a good year for Potbelly Sandwich Shop. That was the year they launched a plan to attempt and recover from their financial woes. They closed the doors of 22 locations and expanded their delivery services, partnering with DoorDash.
Denny's initially operated as a coffee shop under the name, Denny's Donuts, in 1953. It then transformed into a restaurant chain of table service diner-style and started franchising in other countries.
Tad's Steaks is an affordable steak chain that first opened its doors off Times Square in 1960. By January 2020, it has sadly become a thing of the past in the Big Apple. The cut-rate meat slinger stated in a government filing that they were closing due to economic troubles.
Pieology is a fast-casual pizza chain that offers a create-your-own pizza feature, making it look like a Chipotle or a Subway instead of a local pizzeria. The California-based chain, which operates in 21 states, used to have more than 135 locations.
Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo! Cucina Italiana
As the parent company, FoodFirst Global Restaurants filed for Chapter 11 in April 2020, sister chains Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo! Cucina Italiana found themselves losing their spice. For Brio alone, 71 of its 92 locations have already closed permanently. The remaining 21 are also on the verge of saying goodbye.
The pandemic has also taken its toll on burger joint Zinburger. This 2020, it has shut down the majority of its 24 locations permanently. Fifteen of the 18 restaurants on the East Coast went out of business. Thankfully in Arizona, their six branches are still in operation.
TooJay’s Original Gourmet Deli started operating its first restaurant in Palm Beach in 1981. For almost four decades, the Florida deli chain served its loyal customers traditional gourmet deli items, handcrafted sandwiches, dinner entree, and other catering options.
Benihana is a restaurant company that centers around Japanese cuisine restaurants. Steve and Devon Aoki's father, Hiroaki Aoki, founded it in 1964 in New York City. This 2020, even before the coronavirus, it has been bidding goodbye to some of its branches all over the world.
Dubbed as "America’s favorite drive-in," Sonic may not be the apple of the eye of customers lately. In 2018, their quarterly reports have already plummeted. CEO Cliff Hudson related this to the "unfavorable weather" and "continued aggressive discounting by the competition."
Papa Murphy's started out in 1995 as a merger of two local take-and-bake pizza companies - Papa Aldo's Pizza, and Murphy's Pizza. From there it rose through the ranks and became the largest take-and-bake pizza chain. This meant that customers could pick up a cold pizza at the restaurant then cook it in the comforts of their own oven.
Hard Rock Cafe
For almost 50 years now, Hard Rock Cafe has been operating as a chain of theme restaurants. It's hard to imagine not seeing the rock and roll resto, but some locations in the United States have been shutting down. In May 2020, the downtown Houston location was permanently closed.
Pappas Restaurants was named the best steakhouse in Texas in the December 2007 issue of Texas Monthly. At the time, it was certainly enjoying the fruits of brothers Chris and Harris Pappas' labor. The family-run business counted over a hundred restaurants since 1976.
Rubio's Coastal Grill
Rubio's Coastal Grill is a fast-casual Mexican chain that specializes in fish tacos. It was founded by Ralph Rubio, who was inspired to open a restaurant during a spring break with friends. The restaurant chain is not currently on the brink of closing down entirely, but they have shut down all 12 of their Colorado and Florida locations permanently because of the pandemic.
Le Pain Quotidien
Famous for their long, wooden communal tables, the international chain of bakery restaurants Le Pain Quotidien made its way to the United States in 1997. Since then, it has been offering freshly baked goods, salads, and sandwiches. Due to the coronavirus, LPQ has shut down more than half of its branches.
Del Frisco’s Grille
Del Frisco's Grille is a popular steakhouse that has several awards and major metropolitan locations under its belt. Back in 2016, the company was still profitable and free of any serious debt. Come 2018, a whopping $325 million restaurant group purchase affected them for the worst.
Before anything else, there is nothing to worry about the quick-service restaurant chain if you're in Canada. It is only the Tim Hortons branches in the United States that might be on the brink of completely vanishing. As of 2019, they have been closing locations faster than opening them.
PizzaRev is a Southern California-based chain that used to be a growing fast-casual pizza concept. According to reports, there was already trouble in paradise even before the pandemic in 2020. There were 44 restaurants in 2016 but fell to 32 locations by 2019.
Specialty's Cafe & Bakery
For 33 years, Specialty's Cafe & Bakery served as a soup, salad, cookie, and sandwich chain in California, Washington, and Illinois. Unfortunately, the bakery-cafe restaurant announced in May 2020 that it will close all 40 of their locations permanently.
Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes
The first location of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes opened its doors in 1978 in San Diego, California. With two different names, the self-service bar operated as a salad chain of all-you-can-eat buffet-style. In March 2020, all 97 locations temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dave & Buster's
The future of Dave & Buster's is not looking as bright as its video arcade machines. It is reportedly at a high risk of facing permanent closure. Unlike other restaurant chains, it does not offer delivery and takeout— an important factor in 2020's current pandemic situation.