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Enjoy These Restaurant Chains While You Still Can

Restaurants are a notoriously tricky business, even in the best of times. Turning a profit is even harder. This applies to chain eateries with plenty of past successes. They, too, are vulnerable to trends, changing tastes, and global circumstances. The past year has been particularly difficult, as more people are eating at home and sit-down restaurants can serve fewer customers. Many people are passionate about food, getting into intense arguments about the merits of Five Guys versus In-And-Out. But devoted fans aren't always enough to keep a restaurant afloat, and with more competition and fewer resources than ever, many beloved chains can't handle the heat.

Fuddruckers

Fuddruckers is committed to freshness. The beef for their burgers is ground, and the buns are baked on-site at their restaurants every morning. That's no small order — several locations offer an award for finishing their three-pound burger in one sitting. Recently, Fuddruckers announced they are going out of business. Only 40 Fuddruckers locations exist, and at least 25 are temporarily closed.

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Sizzler

Sizzler started as a California steak house in 1958, with steak and combination steak dinners at just above fast food prices. Over the decades, they've expanded, offering a variety of grilled favorites from shrimp to wings and an unlimited salad bar. Isolation measures have hit casual dining hard, leaving Sizzler and many similar steakhouses to declare bankruptcy.

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Boston Market

Boston Market was designed to give customers the taste of a home-cooked meal without the inconveniences of cooking. They offer delicious staples like rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, and mac 'n' cheese. As more supermarkets offer pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and warm, classic sides, Boston Market has been edged out.

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Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese was once almost synonymous with childhood. The chain is famous for its arcade-style games, prizes, and pizza. Over the years, Chuck E. Cheese has attracted fewer families. The chain is now bankrupt and plans to close stores in favor of a delivery pizza service.

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Friendly's

Friendly's has been in business for over 80 years, selling double-dipped ice cream cones for 5 cents each. The restaurant is still famous for ice cream treats. Friendly's financial troubles began in 2008 when the price of cream suddenly rose. Locations have been vanishing quickly since 2018.

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Steak 'n Shake

Steak 'n Shake is a high-quality fast food restaurant boasting cajun fries, homemade milkshakes, and their famous steak burgers. A combination of flagging sales and crushing debt has resulted in this chain struggling to hold on.

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Sbarro

Sbarro is a staple of mall food courts. Known primarily for offering large slices of pizza in a triangular red, white, and green box, Sbarro also offers garlic knots and pasta. Many Sbarro's locations have recently closed, including their most famous Times Square location.

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Blimpie

Blimpie started selling submarine sandwiches a year before Subway, and some customers feel it offers a more classic sub-shop experience. Blimpie is one of the rare chains with its own tongue twister, "Simply Blimpie for fresh-sliced subs." Between 2001 and 2011, Blimpie's sales went down 60% and many stores have closed in response.

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Golden Corral

Golden Corral is known for buffet-style comfort food. Steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, pot roast, banana pudding, grilled-to-order sirloin steaks, and more are available on an all-you-can-eat basis. As people worry more about hygiene and health, Golden Corral has dropped sharply in popularity.

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Rubio's Coastal Grill

Rubio's Coastal Grill offers beach-side Mexican-inspired cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Their fresh tasting menu items include grilled shrimp tacos and inventive seafood-based burrito bowls. Rubio's are becoming tougher to find, as the chain has closed many locations, including all restaurants in Colorado and Florida.

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Zinburger

Zinburger is notable among burger joints for its wine selection. A more grown-up take on the fast-food burger, Zinburger offers truffle and green chili fries, wedge salads, and their classic Zinburger topped with zinfandel braised onion. Recently Zinburger has had to close 15 of its 18 stores, leaving the last few in the Phoenix and Tuscon area.

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Applebee’s

A casual sit-down restaurant with an expansive menu, Applebee’s is largely known for its variety of deals and promotions, including a $1 per drink happy hours and all-you-can-eat boneless wings. Applebee’s was struggling even before recent health guidelines. Over 100 Applebee’s locations have had to close over the past year.

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Bojangles

Bojangles is well known amongst classic Southern fast food chains. In business since 1977, Bojangles specializes in cajun inspired fried chicken and biscuits. As well as cutting stores, Bojangles has been cutting menu items like the Jambalaya Bowl in hopes of staying in business.

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Red Robin

Many fans recall Red Robin's short but sweet jingle. The famous gourmet burger chain offers bottomless steak fries and a variety of unique, upscale burger options. Red Robin is a casual dining chain that often relies on shopping mall traffic. This has proved an unlucky model, as both shopping malls and casual dining had dipped in popularity years before lockdowns even started.

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Pie Five

Pie Five pizza was founded in 2011 and exploded in popularity over the first five years of business. Customers enjoy personalizing their own small pizza, which is handmade with high-quality ingredients baked to order. Pie Five may prove to be a flash in the pan as more stores have closed than opened lately.

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IHOP

The International House of Pancakes is a breakfast restaurant serving waffles, omelets, and, of course, plenty of pancakes. IHOP is known for its inventive pancake toppings and flavors, including a line based on popular breakfast cereals. Social distancing measures have forced IHOP to permanently close 35 restaurants at the beginning of 2020, and more have followed.

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Carl's Jr.

The original Carl's Jr. locations were actually mini versions of a larger sit-down restaurant called Carl's Drive-In Barbecue. Focused on the most popular burgers and fries, Carl's Jr. soon outshone its parent restaurant and became a fast-food giant. Struggling against other burger chains, Carl's Jr. has closed locations and moved its headquarters. Carl's Jr. is attempting a come-back in 2021, but it's unclear if this will pay off.

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Hometown Buffet

Hometown Buffet, also called Old Country Buffet, is an all-you-can-eat experience offering classics like fried chicken, baked fish, cornbread dressing, and soups of the day for one very low price. Hometown Buffet is similar to Golden Corral and declining for similar reasons. Demand has lowered for rich food in big portions, and self-service buffets are looked at differently amongst modern health concerns.

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Eat'n Park

Eat'n Park got its name in 1949 when it was the only Pittsburgh restaurant to feature carhops. It's a cult classic across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia with signature smiley cookies and a wide range of dinner and lunch options. Multiple stores are closing in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and fans fear this is the beginning of further closures.

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Marie Callender's

Marie Callender's is named for Marie herself, who began baking pies for local restaurants in the 1940s. This home business has grown into a chain of casual dining restaurants. Guest can enjoy a classic slice or take home a whole pie after dinner. Marie Callender's recently announced they're going bankrupt and have closed several restaurant locations.

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Tad's Steaks

When Tad's Steaks opened in 1957, it was one of the few restaurants to boast an affordable steak dinner. The cafeteria-style service is decorated with red wallpaper and fake Tiffany lamps, and the broiled steaks and burgers are still loved by fans. After closing down their New York location in 2019, there is only one Tad's Steaks left located in San Francisco.

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Hooters

Known less for the food and more for the servers, Hooters restaurants have long held a semi-scandalous reputation. A sports bar environment serving sports bar classics, Hooters is famous for attractive female servers wearing tight tank tops. Some blame Hooters' closures on a more feminist public while others argue the uniform is outdated to the point of being cheesy.

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Burger King

Customers often argue the merits of Burger King's signature Whopper and fries compared to other chains. Rumor has it that some celebrities carry around a Burger King Crown Card, which entitles them to any meal free of charge. While Burger King has many locations across the world, sales have been falling. Burger King recently launched the first rebrand in 20 years, remodeling logos and restaurants in hopes of winning customers.

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Noodles & Company

Noodles & Company offers noodle and pasta dishes from around the world—everything from cauliflower rigatoni to spicy ramen with dishes to meet almost any dietary requirement. The sheer variety of Noodle & Company dishes are expensive to make and hard to form a brand around, leading to financial struggles for the chain.

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Houlihan's

Houlihan's serves sandwiches and pasta but is most known for its happy hours. Many fans of the chain consider it a classic for its delicious cocktails, large drinks, and high-quality pub favorites. In recent years a quarter of Houlihan's locations have closed. The remaining restaurants have been bought by Landry's, a restaurant group that also owns Rainforest Cafe and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

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Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday is one of the best-known casual dining chains, with steak house classics like ribs and seafood alongside burger baskets, pasta dishes, and a fresh Mexican grill. Ruby Tuesday has struggled against a decline in the popularity and safety of in-store dining. In late 2020, the chain announced that 185 stores that had been closed temporarily would not reopen.

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Checkers

Checkers is famous for its double drive-through and double patty burgers, offerings it boasts alongside hot dogs, boneless wings, crispy fish sandwiches, and ice cream cones. Their drive-through model has helped them weather dining room closures, but Checkers has been struggling with low sales for years.

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Joe's Crab Shack

Joe's Crab Shack is a seafood restaurant with a fun atmosphere. Known for kitschy shark-themed statues and decorations, Joe's most famous dishes are the stuffed shrimp and generous crab buckets. In recent years, Joe's Crab Shack has closed over 40 locations. One of Joe's biggest controversies was when one of the restaurants was discovered using a picture from an execution as table decor.

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Bravo! Cucina Italiana

Also called Bravo Italian Kitchen, this chain provides sit down dining and catering of Italian classic dishes, everything from pizzas and flatbreads to lasagne, chicken marsala, and veal parmesan. Happy hours entice even more guests. While there are a few Bravo! restaurants remaining, executives are warning fans not to expect an encore. Bravo! Cucina Italiana recently closed 71 of its 92 remaining restaurants.

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Quiznos

Quiznos had one of fast food's most dramatic rises, owing in part to being an early master of internet marketing. Their warm toasted subs are a nice alternative to many sub chains which specialize in cold sandwiches. In the early 2000s, Quiznos was a contender for the top sub sandwich restaurant with more than 5000 locations. Less than 10% remain today.

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Zach

Article WriterZach

Zach has been riding the gondola of trivia wherever the waters take him. Although he’s not a named consultant on any major quiz TV shows, Zach has watched them all since infancy and will happily take up any challenge whether it be pub quizzes or high-stakes matches he isn’t afraid to show up. And showing up is 90% of the work!

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