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The Coronavirus Pandemic Could Be the Nail in the Coffin for These Struggling Restaurant Chains

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The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the restaurant industry. As of mid-April, an estimated 30,000 American restaurants had closed for good and more than 110,000 were expected to close down by the end of the month, according to estimates from the National Restaurant Association. And chain restaurants are not immune from these closures. Some of the classic chain restaurants had already been facing tough times amid stiff competition from newer fast-casual restaurants, shuttering underperforming locations every year to cut their losses — and the coronavirus pandemic has only made their financial future less certain. For some chains, it could just be a matter of time before there are no locations left.

GOBankingRates rounded up 33 restaurant chains that have closed locations in recent years — from 2017 through today — and that now have fewer than 1,000 locations remaining in the U.S. Find out if your favorite chain is on the verge of extinction.

Last updated: June 22, 2020

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Benihana

  • 2020 closures: 1

Benihana closed its only Sacramento location in February, Good Day Sacramento reported. There are now 76 locations remaining throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Central and South America.

 

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Tad's Steaks

  • 2020 closures: 1

Tad’s Steaks closed its last New York City location in January. According to a government filing, the affordable steak chain cited economic troubles as the reason for the closing, the New York Post reported. At its peak, Tad’s had eight New York locations and 28 nationwide; it now has one location remaining in San Francisco.

 

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Joe's Crab Shack

  • 2020 closures: 2

A Portland, Oregon-area Joe’s Crab Shack location has closed permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic, Eater Portland reported. According to the site, the COO of Landry’s, the restaurant’s parent company, said the inability to serve dine-in customers made it difficult to remain open. An additional location in Bellevue, Ohio, also closed permanently due to the pandemic, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported.

The coronavirus-related closures are the latest hit to the already struggling restaurant chain. Ignite Restaurant Group, the former parent company of Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern, filed for bankruptcy protection in early June 2017. Two months later, the company had closed 41 Joe’s Crab Shack locations, including all of its locations in Indiana and Michigan, FSR reported. At the time the company filed for bankruptcy there were 112 Joe’s Crab Shack locations — there are now 45.

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Hard Rock Cafe

  • 2020 closures: 3

Hard Rock Cafe permanently closed its downtown Houston location at the end of May, the Houston Business Journal reported. Although it was unclear if the closure was the direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, the announcement came on the heels of the temporary closures in March of several Hard Rock International restaurants, hotels and casinos in the U.S. and abroad due to the pandemic.

Earlier in the year, Hard Rock Cafe locations in Phoenix and at Universal CityWalk in California had closed. There are currently 262 Hard Rock locations throughout the world.

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PizzaRev

  • 2019 closures: 4

PizzaRev closed all three of its Memphis, Tennessee, locations in 2019, Commerical Appeal reported, as well as one location in Boulder, Colorado, Eater Denver reported. The make-your-own pizza chain now has just 27 locations remaining in the U.S.

 

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Tim Hortons

  • 2019 closures: 4

A combination of bad customer reviews, poor health inspections and nosediving revenue led to the closure of four Michigan Tim Hortons in 2019, The Michigan Journal reported. The Canadian coffee chain still has 592 locations in the U.S., including 206 remaining locations in Michigan, according to ScrapeHero data.

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Eat'n Park

  • 2019 closures: 6

Eat ‘n Park closed five locations in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania in February 2019, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The closures left the restaurant chain — known for its Smiley cookies and Superburgers — with 61 remaining locations.

 

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McCormick & Schmick's

  • 2019 closures: 6

McCormick & Schmick’s was purchased in 2012 by Landry’s, the parent company of Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Rainforest Cafe, Morton’s The Steakhouse and others, and since then the chain has been on a steady decline. The upscale seafood and steak chain closed at least six locations in 2019, according to MoneyWise. There are now 28 remaining McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steak locations listed on the company’s website. 

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Roy Rogers

  • 2019 closures: 7

Seven Roy Rogers locations closed in 2019, according to MoneyWise. The Western-themed fast-food chain — which at one point had over 600 locations — now has just 48.

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Pie Five

  • 2019 closures: 8

Pie Five closed eight locations in February 2019 following falling same-store sales, Restaurant Business reported. That left the chain with 65 locations, down from 100 two years prior.

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Perkins

  • 2019 closures: 10

Perkins & Marie Callender’s Holding LLC filed for bankruptcy protection in 2019 for the second time in eight years as its restaurants continued to suffer from lower customer traffic and rising food and labor costs, Reuters reported. The bankruptcy resulted in several rounds of restaurant closings, which included 10 Perkins in 2019, MoneyWise reported.  There are now 317 Perkins locations across 32 states and Canada.

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Houlihan's

  • 2019 closures: 11

Houlihan’s closed 11 restaurant locations in December 2019 in anticipation of its purchase by Landry’s Inc. at the end of that month, Restaurant Business reported. Landry’s bought Houlihan’s after the restaurant chain file for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy filing revealed that Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc. owed $47 million on a 2015 loan that comes due in December 2020.

There are now 44 Houlihan’s remaining across 17 states.

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O'Charley's

  • 2019 closures: 12

O’Charley’s closed a dozen restaurant locations between July and September 2019, and a total of 24 since 2016, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. Although the Southern casual dining chain’s CEO did not give a reason for the closing, systemwide sales had dropped nearly $30 million between the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. About 160 O’Charley’s locations remain throughout the Southeast and Midwest.

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Pollo Tropical

  • 2018 closures: 14

At the end of 2018, Fiesta Restaurant Group, the parent company of Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana, announced that it would be closing 14 Pollo Tropical restaurants in Florida and Georgia due to their lackluster earnings. The Pollo Tropical locations that were closed contributed about $4.6 million in pretax operating losses during the previous 11 months. There are no more Georgia locations remaining, though there are about 150 locations throughout Florida.

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Kona Grill

  • 2019 closures: 15

Kona Grill filed for federal bankruptcy protection in May 2019. It announced that it was closing 15 unprofitable locations as it tried to find a buyer, Restaurant Business reported. The company — which had 46 locations at the end of 2017 — now has 24. It was purchased by the ONE Group Hospitality, Inc., in September 2019, MarketWatch reported. 

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Marie Callender's

  • 2019 closures: 19

Marie Callender’s started as a local pie shop in Orange County, California, back in the 1940s. The chain — which closed 19 locations in 2019, according to MoneyWise — has 28 restaurants remaining across the U.S.

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Taco Cabana

  • 2020 closures: 19

In January, Fiesta Restaurant Group announced that it would be shuttering 19 Taco Cabana locations as part of its margin improvement plan.

“These closures eliminate all stores with significant losses, which we expect will result in a highly viable portfolio of restaurants,” Fiesta president and CEO Richard Stockinger said in a press release.

There are now 38 locations across Texas and New Mexico.

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Potbelly Sandwich Shop

  • 2019 closures: Up to 22

Potbelly launched a recovery plan in 2019 that included a revamped menu, an expansion of in-house delivery with DoorDash and a focus on product innovation, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. Despite these shifts, the company still took a downturn. To get things back on track, the CEO announced in May of that year that Potbelly would be closing 15 to 22 stores, including eight that had already been closed earlier in 2019.

The restaurant’s financial health took another huge hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, and in May, CEO Alan Johnson announced that he was considering closing up to 100 more shops.

The Chicago-based sandwich chain currently has about 400 company-owned shops and about 40 franchised shops in the United States.

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Fuddruckers

  • 2020 closures: 28

On March 31, Luby’s, Inc. — the parent company of Fuddruckers — suspended operations at 36 company-owned Fuddruckers locations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with three locations remaining open for take-out, drive-through, curbside pickup and delivery. In May, the company re-opened eight of the previously-closed locations, which means that 28 remain closed — though it’s unclear if these closures will end up being permanent.

These latest closures come on the heels of previous company restructuring. In July 2019, the Luby’s restaurant brand announced plans to establish new cost structures and grow traffic and sales while closing some of its existing stores, QSR reported. As part of this reorganization, it shuttered 11 Fuddruckers. There are now 39 remaining locations, including the 28 that remain closed due to the pandemic.

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Golden Corral

  • 2020 closures: 35

In late March, Golden Corral announced that it had closed all 35 company-operated restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic, though some of the buffet chain’s 454 franchised stores would remain open for takeout and delivery, Restaurant Business reported.

 

Mark Ballogg / Red Robin

Red Robin

  • 2020 closures: 35

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers temporarily closed 35 locations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in April, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. The locations had previously been open for off-premise orders.

In 2019, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers announced that it would be closing 10 underperforming restaurants — including seven in enclosed mall locations — as it worked on a turnaround at the brand, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. Its mall locations had been notoriously underperforming.

Currently, there are 556 Red Robin restaurants across the United States and Canada, including the temporarily closed locations. It remains to be seen if and when any of the recently closed locations will reopen.

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Bar Louie

  • 2020 closures: 38

Texas-based gastropub chain Bar Louie closed 38 of its company-owned locations and filed for bankruptcy in January, the Chicago Tribune reported. According to the bankruptcy filing, recent expansion, an “inconsistent brand experience” and decreased traffic to shopping malls led to “accelerating” sales declines. There are 98 remaining locations.

 

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Friendly's

  • 2020 closures: 43

As a result of the coronavirus, Friendly’s closed 43 locations in April, though Sylvia Becker, a spokeswoman for restaurant operator FIC Restaurants Inc., told MassLive that the company expects to reopen the shuttered locations when the crisis abates.

There are now 111 remaining locations.

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Luby's

  • 2020 closures: 43

In response to the coronavirus crisis, Luby’s has had two rounds of restaurant closures. On March 20, the company announced that it was closing 14 Luby’s locations, and on March 24, it announced the temporary closure of an additional 29 Luby’s units, Restaurant Business reported.

“These cost savings are intended to partially mitigate the financial impact to the company at this time,” Luby’s said, according to Restaurant Business. “The company will continuously adjust its response to the pandemic until its threat to the company’s operations fade and its restaurants re-open.”

Thirty-four Luby’s locations remain open.

 

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Boston Market

  • 2019 closures: 45

As part of a restructuring process, Boston Market closed 45 of its locations — 10% of its units — in 2019, Restaurant Business reported.

“We must take steps to ensure our operational structure will support long-term sustainability,” CEO Frances Allen said in a letter to employees obtained by Restaurant Business. “Part of that effort involves continuously analyzing our geographic footprint and real estate portfolio to assess the ongoing viability of locations.”

About 350 Boston Markets remain in the U.S.

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Steak 'n Shake

  • 2020 closures: 51

In February, Steak ‘n Shake “temporarily” closed 107 locations with plans to reopen “most of them” without waitstaff, according to Restaurant Business. According to the industry news site, “it is uncertain how many of the restaurants will be reopened and when.”

In its Q1 financial report, Biglari Holdings — the parent company of Steak ‘n Shake — announced that 51 locations had been closed permanently.

Financial troubles have been mounting for the chain, with same-store sales declining every year for the past three years and operating losses for 2019 reaching $18.6 million. There are now 550 Steak ‘n Shake restaurants across 28 states.

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Noodles & Company

  • 2017 closures: 55

A disappointing 2016 led to closures of 55 Noodles & Company locations in 2017, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. However, the fast-casual chain announced that it would be opening 14 to 17 locations in established markets that same year. 

There are about 450 Noodles & Company restaurants remaining.

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Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana

  • 2020 closures: 71

In March, FoodFirst Global Restaurants — the parent company of Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana — temporarily closed 71 of its 92 U.S. locations due to the coronavirus crisis, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. CEO Steve Layt said that many of the “temporary” closures could indeed be permanent due to the shuttering of dine-in operations.

“It would be impossible to guess, but certainly there’s a strong chance not all of them will reopen based on how long this process lasts,” he told Nation’s Restaurant News.

 

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TGI Fridays

  • 2020 closures: Up to 77

TGI Fridays will permanently close up to 20% of its 386 U.S. locations due to declining sales as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, CEO Ray Blanchette told Bloomberg in late May.

“Some will close forever, without a doubt,” Blanchette said. “Right now it’s all triage and it’s all about cash: How are you going to make it through and keep the company solvent?”

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Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes

  • 2020 closures: 97

The buffet-style chains Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes permanently closed all 97 of their locations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

“The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets,” John Haywood, CEO of the chains’ parent company, Garden Fresh, told the paper in early May. “The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it.”

“We could’ve overcome any other obstacle, and we’ve worked for eight weeks to overcome these intermittent financial challenges but it doesn’t work if we are not allowed to continue our model,” he continued.

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Le Pain Quotidien

  • 2020 closures: 98

The pandemic-related shutdown of restaurants forced the already-struggling fast-casual chain Le Pain Quotidien to close all 98 of its U.S. locations, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. Its parent company, PQ New York Inc., filed for Chapter 11 reorganization and agreed in May to sell its restaurants to Aurify Brands LLC for about $3 million. Aurify plans to reopen at least 35 of the closed Le Pain Quotidien units.

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Quiznos

  • 2017 closures: Over 100

Quiznos had 4,700 U.S. locations in 2007 and fewer than 400 just 10 years later, Restaurant Business reported. The most recent batch of mass closures seems to have taken place in 2017 when the chain closed over 100 of its remaining locations, Nation’s Restaurant News reported. The closures came as the struggling sandwich brand was purchased by High Bluff Capital Partners. 

As for how the chain lost 90% of its units in a single decade, Restaurant Business explains it as “a perfect storm of bad decisions and bad luck. Quiznos had a bad business model, a tough competitor [Subway], a devastating recession and a leveraged buyout.”

As of 2017, 374 locations remained.

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Ruby Tuesday

  • 2020 closures: 148

Ruby Tuesday had been struggling for the past few years, but the pandemic has made it even more difficult for the remaining locations to survive. The casual dining chain has closed 148 restaurants since January, Business Insider reported.

“During these uncertain times, and after careful consideration, we have made the decision to close select locations in an effort to better position our restaurants for future business,” a spokesperson told Business Insider.

The home of the Endless Garden Bar now owns, operates and franchises between 270 and 300 locations across the U.S. and the world.

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