Big Restaurant Chains That Have Slowly Been Closing Locations Behind the Scenes
All over the country and the world, big restaurant chains have been slowly closing locations due to economic and generational divides. Many have happened so quietly that you may not have noticed unless you're a regular patron. Some closings have been due to a decline in sales; others have been in efforts to revitalize how business is done.
Some restaurants may be completely phased out altogether. Here are 30 restaurant chains that have been quietly shutting down some of their locations and why.
Popular restaurant chain TGI Fridays is known for its great appetizers. However, the big chain is failing to snag the younger generation of diners, who appear to prefer more innovative foods. Americans in general are either gravitating to high-end restaurants or fast-food places, leaving casual-dining chains clawing for a place with consumers.
Applebee's first opened its doors in 1980, but since then, the neighborhood bar and grill has slowly been falling behind. In 2018, the chain closed 90 locations, dropping from 1,936 to 1,846 physical restaurants. The plan for 2019 was to close down another 20 locations.
Hooters has been on a slow decline. It's seen as offensive towards women due to the chain's scantily clad waitresses and hiring practices based on appearance (which the chain is still legally allowed to do). The menu at Hooters also has stayed relatively the same since its opening.
Bojangles' restaurants are still popular in North Carolina and South Carolina, where half of the chicken-and-biscuit restaurants are located. However, it's not doing as well elsewhere. The restaurant chain recently closed 10 of its locations in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
Pieology is a newer pizza place that allows customers to create their own pizzas much like a bowl at Chipotle or a sub at Subway. The chain, which is based in California, had 135 locations at the end of 2017 in 21 states and Guam. However, the chain is still steadily closing locations.
Outback, Carrabba's and Bonefish Grill
Popular trends in younger generations, including cooking at home to save money and eating fresher food, have taken a toll on hospitality company Bloomin' Brands. The company is behind restaurant chains including Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill chains.
Much like Bojangle's, Pollo Tropical is a big name in one part of the country, but in this case, it reigns supreme in Florida. The restaurant chain, which highlights Caribbean cuisine, has had trouble reaching success in other areas.
Founded in 1972, Tony Roma’s was known as "the largest casual theme restaurant chain specializing in ribs in the world." However, in the 2000s, the restaurant chain's domestic sales fell by over 70 percent. The total number of its U.S. restaurants went from 162 to just 46.
Bravo and Brio
Sister chains Bravo! Cucina Italiana and Brio Tuscan Grille have been closing a few of their famed Italian restaurants in recent years. At least six locations shut down in 2017, and a few more were closed in 2018, including one in downtown Baltimore near famous Inner Harbor.
Red Robin had 573 locations as of early 2019, but it also closed 10 locations that were not performing well. The restaurant chain ended the previous year with a $10.6 million loss.
Joe’s Crab Shack
In 2014, Joe's Crab Shack had almost 140 locations. However, as of today, there are only 57 locations still operating. In 2016, the chain reported an operating loss of $16.6 million, and in 2017, the chain abruptly closed multiple locations.
Noodles & Company
Noodles & Company is known for its noodle dishes and pasta, soups, and salads. However, the restaurant chain has slowly been closing underperforming stores. In fact, in 2017, it shut down 55 locations. The next year, at least 10 more of the chain's restaurants had gone out of business.
Luby's restaurants serve up homestyle comfort foods cafeteria-style. Located primarily in Texas, the restaurant attracts older crowds. However, Luby's has failed to draw in new, younger customers.
In years past, Pizza Hut was known as a great spot for dine-in service. However, dine-in restaurants are slowly dying off out of preference for quick delivery or carryout meals. The popular pizza chain is slowly beginning to refocus on carryout and delivery service for customers to meet this shift, and that means shutting down locations.
This Irish pub-themed chain declared bankruptcy in 2008, closing all 150 domestic locations. However, in October of that same year, Atalaya Capital Management acquired the Bennigan's brand. The company introduced a new logo, store prototype, financial and franchise models, an updated menu, improved marketing and catering.
Ruby Tuesday has been on the decline in recent years. As with many of the restaurants on this list, Ruby Tuesday is suffering from the lack of dine-in customers. With consumers having a preference for carryout and convenience, the dining chain has shrunk by nearly half over the last 10 years.
The International House of Pancakes may be still serving up hot cakes on the griddle, but the restaurant has been struggling behind the scenes. IHOP has reportedly been losing its customers to restaurants with ethnic cuisine as well as healthier dining spots. The owner of the restaurant, Dine Brands, announced that it would close at least 40 IHOPS in 2018
Blimpie Subs & Salads
Launched in 1964 in Hoboken, New Jersey, Blimpie Subs & Salads was the country's first sub-sandwich chain. It is still the third-largest such chain in the country; however, the sub shops have been struggling in recent years. Franchising company Kahala, which also owns Cold Stone Creamery, bought Blimpie in 2007 in hopes of revitalizing the brand. It hasn't done much good.
After opening in 1981, Quiznos became a popular sandwich chain with locations popping up everywhere. It battled head to head with Subway for the title of America's favorite toasty subs. However, Quiznos shops are slowly vanishing.
Chipotle is one of the biggest names in Mexican fast food right now. However, the restaurant chain has had its share of issues, causing a decline in sales. An E. coli outbreak and other food safety scares shook consumer confidence.
McCormick & Schmick’s
McCormick & Schmick's is an upscale seafood-and-steaks restaurant chain with locations across the country. Although popular in the beginning, the chain has been on the decline since it was purchased in 2012 by Landry's, the company that owns Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Rainforest Cafe, Morton's Steakhouse and other dining brands across the globe.
Founded in 1990, Baja Fresh Mexican Grill was one of the top Mexican restaurants of its time. The restaurant chain's popularity stemmed from its use of fresh ingredients and its secret "Salsa Baja" at the restaurants' salsa bars.
In the late 1960s, singer and actor Roy Rogers licensed his name to a chain of burger restaurants. By 1991, the chain had over 600 locations, mostly in the northeastern U.S. and mid-Atlantic.
With serious competition from places like Starbucks, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and McDonald's, coffee-and-doughnuts chain Tim Hortons has seen a major decline in sales. The company, which started in Canada in 1964, has been closing dozens of locations in recent years.
Papa Murphy's is America's largest take-and-bake pizza chain. Consumers can pick up a cold pizza to cook in their own home. However, since the restaurant's opening in 1995, customers have moved towards the convenience of a hot-and-ready pie.
Subway can certainly be called the biggest sub shop in the world. With its sandwiches seen as a healthy alternative to other fast food, it's no wonder that the chain has been doing well. However, it’s also competing with other chains who deliver trendier and tastier options that are also locally sourced.
TCBY, which opened in 1981 in Arkansas, originally stood for "This Can't Be Yogurt." However, the company later switched it to "The Country's Best Yogurt" after the original meaning led to a lawsuit from a competitor. The frozen yogurt chain had over 1,800 locations in the early 2000s. However, it's been struggling to compete against other frozen yogurt and ice cream franchises since then.
Old Country Buffet
In the 2000s, buffet restaurant Old Country Buffet (along with Country Buffet, HomeTown Buffet, and Ryan's) reigned supreme. Families could get a bunch of their favorite comfort-foods at a good price at these multiple locations. At its peak, these buffet chain had over 700 locations through parent company Ovation Brands.
Ponderosa and Bonanza
Steakhouses Ponderosa and Bonanza offer hearty meals with "the spirit of the Old West and honest-to-goodness value," according to the restaurant's website. However, the recession hurt the business in a big way. In 2008, parent company Metromedia Steakhouses Co. filed for bankruptcy.
Burger chain Fuddruckers was founded by Philip J. Romano in Houston in 1979. Romano would eventually put his own name on a restaurant chain, Romano's Macaroni Grill, but Fuddruckers was his pride and joy. The restaurant chain boasted that its hamburgers were "the world's greatest." The brand is now owned by Luby's, and the company has been closing locations left and right.