As they have expanded nationwide and even internationally into the restaurant chain empires we’ve grown up with and learned to love, many of these restaurants closing locations by 2020 may come as a surprise to you. Whether it’s due to financial woes or just cutting the fat, some of these listings are bound to bring on fears of further implications.
It all began over eight decades ago, when a humble Massachusetts ice cream shop decided to add hamburgers to their menu, and history was made. Today, the Friendly’s chain is a staple across the Northeastern United States and the Mid-Atlantic States. Unfortunately, this family-style eatery is seeing a variety of restaurants closing during 2019, all of them in upstate New York or New England.
The company CEO George Michel announced in April that 23 stores would close. But controversy has arisen from more than just missing milkshakes: because of how quickly some of the branches closed, some politicians are seeking to amend laws to give employees more than a mere day’s notice.
Imagine a world in which you can’t have breakfast at any time you wish. It would truly be a dark and unforgiving place. Thankfully, since 1958, that niche has been filled by The International House of Pancakes, providing all your battered and syrupy needs no matter how late it is.
But if you love their style, make sure you let them feel it: sales have been heading on the downswing for the restaurant franchise over the past few years. This has resulted in dozens of closures, with or without their burger idea, but they still have plans to open new branches in a variety of different areas. Keep that griddle fired up!
3. Carl’s Jr.
It’s among one of the most instantly recognizable restaurant logos in the history of the United States. After all, how could you possibly feel glum when you see that cheery yellow star smiling at you from a billboard? Behind the scenes, it would seem there’s a different story.
Corporate managers have faced more than one lawsuit in recent years, and sales have gradually been on the downward trend. As a result, plans were announced in late 2018 to close the longtime corporate headquarters of Carl’s Jr. in Anaheim, California, and relocate it across the country to Tennessee. Despite continued closures in 2019, the restaurant can still boast a hefty 3,800 locations across the United States and internationally.
So ‘restaurant’ probably isn’t the first term that comes to mind when you think of Starbucks, but don’t forget that the conglomerate sells a variety of foods as well. The coffee titan made a shocking announcement in 2018, stating it would close 150 different locations across the United States in order to better optimize its current market.
These closures are more than three times the average rate for Starbucks. The company synonymous with quick and tasty coffee is in the process of trying to edge into other niches, and 2019 has also reportedly seen it opening in locations whose markets have not been tapped into prior.
5. TGI Fridays
Believe it or not, TGI Fridays has a rather adorable genesis story. It was founded in New York City in 1965, with the hopes of creating a space for young people in their twenties and thirties to meet and mingle in a comfortable, laid-back environment. The home of the red and white stripes is slowly falling out of favor with that same target demographic in the present day.
The years 2018 and 2019 saw branches closing in key locations such as Tallahassee, Staten Island, and Washington DC, all of which lost their only remaining branch of TGI Fridays. Perhaps hope lies overseas: the highest grossing branch of TGI Fridays is actually in Leicester Square, London.
By 1987, there were only 12 different branches of Quiznos across the United States — but don’t underestimate the power of a submarine sandwich that has been perfectly toasted. Just a decade later, it was already the third most-powerful restaurant chain of its kind on the planet. But the past years have been far less kind to Quiznos, seeing restaurants closing at a dizzying rate.
What had once had 4,700 branches across the US has plummeted to less than 400, and closures continue throughout 2019. It has passed hands to new ownership recently, however, so let’s hope that change will breathe new life into these sandwich-selling superheroes.
7. Papa Murphy’s
Worried your pizza just won’t be fresh enough by the time it’s delivered to your front door? Papa Murphy’s thought of that long ago, with the unique business model of take-and-bake: grab the pizza at the window, take it home and bake it just how you like it in your own oven.
Sounds heavenly, but from spring 2018 to spring 2019, Papa Murphy’s had to shutter over 60 locations across North America. That being said, it would appear there’s some spring still left in that dough, as Canadian food franchiser MTY Food Group nabbed the company for a healthy $190 million in April 2019.
8. Taco Bell
At most, it’s Mexican-inspired rather than a proper representation of actual Mexican cuisine — but don’t tell that to Taco Bell’s legions of devoted customers across the United States. Now, Taco Bell has its sights set on expanding its crunchy empire well beyond the bounds of North America, but it’s going to come at the expense of several locations.
Over the course of 2019, the chain has seen one closure in Pennsylvania, one in Arkansas, and four in Maine. Given the massive success of Taco Bell and its incredible number of locations, that’s a mere drop in the bucket. However, think of all the poor souls who now have a great distance separating them and their gorditas.
Luby’s wears two separate hats: operating Fuddruckers, Cheeseburger in Paradise, and Koo Koo Roo, as well as its own cafeteria chain that operates in many locations, primarily across the American South. But even that easily-accessible style of home cooking in a comfortable environment has not been enough to save the chain from a series of branch closings.
By spring 2019, Luby’s had seen a year within which 27 restaurants had been shuttered. Still, they’re trying to set themselves back on track, with better ad campaigns, and mixing in that most irresistible of options: breakfast items are going back on the menu.
10. Pollo Tropical
Miami’s been holding out on us. For years, Pollo Tropical has serviced the South Florida community with all the joys of Caribbean cooking. You would think diners the country over would be thrilled to taste that sinfully citrusy grilled chicken with a healthy helping of rice and beans.
But once it expanded out of the hub of Cubans, Venezuelans, and Haitians, Pollo Tropical just couldn’t find a stronghold. Its planned Texas invasion didn’t quite get off the drawing board, and due to massive financial losses, by the time 2019 begun, 23 different locales had shut their doors. The trend has continued into 2019, including the entire Atlanta area.
11. Papa John’s
They gave us the glories of dipping sauce, they treated us to a crust created with care, but now the fourth-largest pizza delivery restaurant in the United States is having more than a little trouble standing on two legs. Founder John Schnatter found himself in hot water thanks to using a nasty racial slur, compelling him to step down last year.
As a result of outrage surrounding the incident, as well as a change in management, sales for Papa John’s slid down 7.8%. Because of the drastic shift, analysts had warned of continued closures throughout 2019, with one estimating Papa John’s would see up to 250 different branches being shuttered. The restaurant is doing what it can to stay afloat, including cutting costs where possible.
12. Pie Five
Want a handmade pizza pie styled to your liking? Sure. Want it ready in just five minutes? We’re listening. It’s barely been a decade, but the idea of fast casual caught on across the United States, spreading quickly out of Texas. But as quickly as they rose, Pie Five began to teeter slightly.
For the past two years, the company has seen more than 30 different locations close. In fact, several have been shut in 2019 already, including one near the University of Texas at Arlington that shut merely 30 minutes before its employees, who would have otherwise shown up for work, were informed.
13. Pizza Hut
Quick — name the most famous American pizzeria! If Pizza Hut were the first two words that sprang to mind, you’d be far from alone. For generations and for any number of eventful occasions, the pizza chain has been a staple of American takeout culture. It has withstood the test of time thus far — but it’s undergoing some serious changes.
Once, you had the option to either order or sit down, but now, the restaurant is trying to transition into a delivery-only model — and some of its site closings are bound to be a side effect. Roughly 450 different branches are shutting their doors throughout 2019.
14. Pizza Rev
Pizza Rev has only been around for eight years, but it’s managed to make quite a stir (or, rather, quite a spin?). California’s answer to Pie Five has allowed customers to grab pizzas quickly on their lunch break — cue the Europeans looking from afar with disdain at the thought that food has to be treated as an inconvenience to be eaten in a hurry.
Yet while the Pizza Rev idea has caught on in other states outside California, its rapid expansion is now seeing some slices here and there. Three different locations in Memphis, Tennessee have felt the burn in 2019, and they’re not alone, though reasons appear murky at best.
In 2002, O’Charley’s made it to the list of Forbes’ 200 Best Small Companies in America, proudly rounding out three years with that title. But today, growing pains are seeing the restaurant chain in a bit of a rough patch. Breakups are always hard, and when O’Charley’s parent company announced last year that they would split into two, then balked, it left the restaurant’s future in limbo.
The company has closed over nine different locations so far in 2019, in Florida, Indiana, and Georgia. The chain might be sold, and in these unclear times, the casual dining darlings that wandered out of Tennessee and captured the hearts and stomachs of the South and the Midwest appear to be on the grill.
16. Eat ‘N Park
Residents of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, it’s time to talk about you. For 70 years, you’ve enjoyed the simple pleasures of Eat ‘N Park. You’ve scarfed down their trademarked Smiley cookies, enjoyed their family-style meals, or just taken advantage of their ever-present ATMs (thank goodness).
Rest assured, your favorite restaurant is still doing quite well when it comes to business. But for Ohio residents, that success has come at a cost during 2019, seeing five different restaurant locations closing across the state in order to better maintain the more successful branches. That being said, when one star fades, others rise: more branches are being upgraded.
Oh the times they are a-changin’, and they’re sweeping everyone’s favorite sandwich shop right along with them. Yes, even Subway has not been immune to its restaurants closing over the past few years. The hero of subs everywhere has long since passed from the days in which it was advertised as a healthy sandwich option instead of fast food.
In 2018, Subway closed a whopping 1,100 branches in the United States alone. 2019 has seen more closures, but don’t be dismayed: it’s still the largest chain restaurant in the world. The business model is being honed tightly to focus on having less restaurants but strategically keeping the ones in the most profitable areas.
With around 50 different Chipotle restaurant chains closing across the United States in 2019, it looks like burritos aren’t the only thing that’s going to be rolled back. Despite Chipotle swiftly having secured its place as the Mexican-American fast food franchise to define a generation, some heavy setbacks over the past few years have put a dent in its reputation.
Several years back, the restaurant found itself in the press in some rather unsavory headlines: customers had fallen ill from two E. coli outbreaks connected to food they had eaten at Chipotle. Once more, in 2019 a cyber attack left customers’ personal information at risk. Nonetheless, there’s over 150 new Chipotle locations opening in 2019, so have no fear (of the salsa brava).
19. Golden Corral
Back in 1973, the first Golden Corral Buffet & Grill opened its doors in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and by the time the ‘80s rolled around, there were 500 branches around the country. The 21st century is seeing the world starting to steer away from buffets and red meat consumption, and the restaurant chain is suffering as a result.
It first started when salad bars replaced seating areas and then cooking theaters were added so consumers can see how their food is being prepared. Slowly but surely, branches are closing with the latest closures happening in Coeur d’Ale, Idaho; Milford, Connecticut; and Lawndale Drive in Greensboro, North Carolina. Now that buffet style meals are not as popular, Golden Corral cannot compete with other restaurants around the county, and we will start seeing more and more branches shutting down permanently.
Applebee’s first started in Atlanta, Georgia in 1980, and has become a neighborhood favorite in localities across the United States since then. That being said, over the past few years, this bar and grill has seen numbers dwindling, and their franchise owner admits something is up.
Ninety Applebee’s branches shuttered their doors for the last time in 2018, and 2019 will see at least 20 more Applebee’s restaurants closing. Don’t worry though, you haven’t seen the last of them. The brand is trying to appeal to a younger generation’s tastes, by including healthier and more diverse menu options, and broadening their delivery services.
21. Tim Hortons
Come for the doughnuts, but stay for that unbeatable coffee. If you ask a Canadian to name the top five things about their friendly northern culture, chances are, “Timmy’s” is bound to appear in most lists. It’s simply a staple of Canadian everyday life and good times, but crossing the southern border has proved more daunting than expected.
The chain hasn’t experienced the same popularity in the United States, and in the past few years, has seen about 14% of its restaurants closing across Canada’s southern buddy. For example, with Newport, Maine’s branch closing in 2019, the restaurant’s numbers in the border state have been sliced in half.
It’s a name that makes you giggle but still manages to make your mouth water. Synonymous with burgers smothered in cheese sauce, the Texas-based company has gone through some turbulent times over the past decade. Its parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and the restaurant seemed doomed. It was bought out and rescued, but its sales are still wavering.
They slid down 11.2% during the first quarter of 2019, and the parent company has closed six locations during the year’s second quarter. Will they be able to save their buns from the fryer? Time can only tell — but for now, grab yourself an Inferno Burger with some big ol’ potato wedges as only they do best.
23. Steak ‘n Shake
Midwesterners, eat your heart out. Steak ‘n Shake brings many a fond memory to people born and raised in the Rust Belt, beginning as a simple drive-thru once upon a time in old Illinois. And while the secret’s been let out to the rest of the nation, Steak ‘n Shake has not been faring so well from a business perspective.
The burger and milkshake restaurant chain has seen three consecutive years of losses, and took drastic action. Thirty-one different locations were temporarily shut down in March 2019, the majority of which were in Missouri and Ohio. Hopefully they’ll be able to shake those hard times off.
24. Boston Market
Looking for that same finger-licking good experience that KFC offers, but in a non-fried format? Boston Market has got you more than covered. But the rotisserie chain has undergone quite a few changes over the past few decades, from bankruptcy, to its adoption by McDonald’s, to being sold once again.
The chicken chain is not exactly in a good place, having shut down roughly 10% of its 450 chains. As if that weren’t sad enough, the last two branches of Boston Market in Beantown itself have closed their doors. The company headquarters has passed to Colorado, and remains Bostonian in name only.
25. Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Apparently the name hasn’t frightened today’s health-conscious generation away, because in the past few years, Potbelly has had the wherewithal to make the leap out of the US and all the way to India. That being said, it would seem that while Potbelly expands, it also contracts.
Just three short years after opening its first Canadian branch in Toronto, all of its shops in the city have closed in 2019, denying the Chicago sandwich place’s northern neighbors the pleasures of its sinfully-loaded subs and milkshakes with cookies. Development is slowing down, and even attempts to sell the restaurant chain have failed.
26. Ruby Tuesday
When the Rolling Stones penned the wistful 1967 pop song “Ruby Tuesday,” they surely had no intentions of it launching a wildly successful restaurant business just five short years later. What began as a business venture launched by University of Tennessee fraternity brothers spread across the nation.
However, the family restaurant might soon be changing its tune to “Gimme Shelter.” In the face of a several corporate-level changes and witnessing a sales slump, Ruby Tuesday has continued its trend of restaurants closing in 2019, most of which were across the Eastern seaboard. More than 120 branches of the chain have been closed over the past three years.
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