It’s late, there is no dinner in the house and you are dying for Minnie Pearl’s fried chicken. It’s been a long a day at work and you are can’t stop thinking about prime ribs from Steak and Ale. It’s a boiling hot day and you know that all you need to cool you down is a HoJo’s ice cream!
But what’s the problem, well they have all gone out of business! Both American history and culture are full of restaurant chains. Similarly to any business, some have lasted for years and will continue to thrive well into the future while unfortunately we have had to say goodbye to some, and we will have to say goodbye to more in the future. For now we will take a look at some of those restaurant chains that didn’t make it and are now defunct.
1. Baja Fresh
This Mexican Grill was a burrito chain that started in 1990. It was famous for its “salsa baja”; nobody could work out what it was made it. Problems began when Wendy’s took over Baja Fresh in 2002. Four years on and the restaurant known for its sharp, fresh ingredients, was making a loss. You could have found 300 Baja Fresh’ but by 2017 there were only 165.
2. Kenny Rogers Roasters
Kenny Rogers was a country singer who decided to open franchise of rotisserie chicken joints in 1991. He received some assistance from John Y. Brown, who previous had invested in KFC.
The bright flames of the KRR sign featured in a 1996 episode of Seinfeld with Kramer becoming addicted to the food. In North America the chain has entirely fizzled out but it continues to be incredibly popular in Asia.
3. Ground Round
Throughout the 70’s and 80’s parents were under duress from their children to take them to Ground Round, famous for hosting birthday parties with their mascot- Bingo the Clown! Adults will recall the peanut shells that they were supposed to throw on the floor. IN 2005 the number of Ground Round’s halved before filing for bankruptcy. Now there are less than 25 restaurants.
4. Dog n Suds
Hamburgers are the choice of food for most fast-food restaurants but as you may have guessed, Dog n Suds focused on hot dogs, served with root beer. This drive-in food chain had 650 locations in the 60’s but today you would struggle to find one of the ten still remaining.
5. Roy Rogers
The King of the Cowboys permitted this restaurant chain to use his name and between to late 60’s and early 90’s, Roy Rogers had over 600 restaurants. The business was sold and turned into Hardee’s burger joint which infuriated its loyal fans. Now there are only around 50 locations and probably all because of a name change!
Blimpie sandwich shop ‘s can still be found but compared with it’ success in the early 2000’s the business really has downsized. Not just in the U.S but also overseas there were nearly 2000 shops- now there are approximately 250.
7. Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips
Arthur Treacher was an actor who was famous for his role as a British Butler. The restaurant chain began in 1969 and was an instant hit, quickly growing to more than 800 locations. Unfortunately the business couldn’t survive the sharp increase in cod prices in the late 70’s. Seven restaurants remain!
8. Tony Roma’s
The barbeque themed restaurants where not only successful in the U.S, but all over the world! Its claim to fame was overseeing the menu for the Playboy Club. At one point there were 160 locations in the U.S but its website now advertises 15 locations.
9. Chock Full O’Nuts
Chock Full O’Nuts was not only a chain of cafes but also a coffee brand, which was founded by William Black in 1926! The Great Depression encouraged Black to serve coffee and a sandwich for 5 cents. By 1971 there were more than 80 locations just within New York. Today there are 6 in New York and Miami.
This Irish themed pub/restaurant was founded in Atlanta, in 1976. Just over 30 years later the company closed 150 restaurants within 24 hours and filed for bankruptcy. Perhaps the tempura shrimp clashed with the idea of Irish! Today there are 13 Bennigan’s.
11. Country Buffet
The 700 buffet restaurants were named Country Buffet, Old Country Buffet, HomeTown Buffet or Ryan’s. In the mid-2000s Americans flocked to the all you can eat locations for traditional meals such as meatloaf and macaroni cheese. Their web page has 80 restaurants in business today.
Denver was home to this sandwich chain, opening in 1981. The popularity of the toasted sandwiches spread across the U.S and even worldwide with a spectacular 5000 odd locations in 2007. The Great Recession took its toll on Quiznos and in January this figure was down to 400. There is hope, fingers crossed for the new owners!
13. Howard Johnson’s
This chain was once America’s biggest restaurant chain, feeding more people outside their home than anyone except the U.S. Army. More than 1000 orange roofed locations were often found close to a motel. Only 1 location has survived, in Lake George, New York.
14. TCBY Frozen Yogurt
“This Can’t Be Yogurt” had to change its name because of a lawsuit, so then became “The Country’s Best Yogurt”. In 1981, Arkansas saw the first location and this expanded to almost 1800 in the early 200s. However frozen yogurt became a huge trend and it was difficult to compete. Now there are around 350 but this number keeps decreasing.
If you were hoping for some Mexican fried ice cream you may need to head over to Europe, as there are no longer locations in North America. Chi-Chi’s at one point had over 200 restaurants but after 4 people died in Pittsburgh after a green onion outbreak, the business went downhill quickly.
16. Planet Hollywood
Planet Hollywood was, as the name implies, filled with bright lights and celebrity images. The first restaurant opened in New York in 1991 and soon expanded to 87 locations throughout the world. The chain boasted nearly $15 million sales in each location during its first year. This was not enough to keep the chain afloat and now there are 6 worldwide.
17. Big Boy
The gigantic statue of the cubby “Big Boy” is a frequent site across America with more than 1000 sites. It started out as Bob’s Pantry in 1936 but as the burger industry became faster and faster, clients opted for the quicker option. Today you may find yourself in one of 200 locations.
18. Rainforest Café
This was more about the atmosphere of the restaurant rather than the food! Each location felt like you were walking into a plastic jungle with sound effects. It was a fun place to eat. It may not be as popular as it was 20 years ago but 17 of the 32 restaurants are still operating with 5 more outside the U.S.
19. Chicken Delight
You can’t get the advert out of your head- “Don’t cook tonight- call chicken tonight”. Inside the U.S, Chicken Delight was more popular than KFC with its locations exceeding 1000. But the quality of the food was incomparable and between Canada and New York there are about 25 locations.
20. Ollie’s Trolley
Washington D.C is host to one of the three remaining Olli’s Trolley sites. After his success advancing the KFC chain, John Y. Brown Jr. had hopes to do the same with a spiced burger he had tried. The chain went from 100 to 3 since 1976 due to the unpopular burger and the restaurants not being drive-through.