15 Popular Restaurant Chains That No Longer Exist

Restaurant franchises have changed our lifestyles in many ways in the past few decades. However, as you may have noticed, the market is highly competitive and has changed a lot during that time. Some restaurant franchises have collapsed, many of which were highly successful during their heyday. Now, let’s take a look at those once iconic restaurant franchises that you might have already forgotten.

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1. Howard Johnson's

Howard Johnson’s restaurants/motels business achieved great success in the 1960s, when they had more than 1,000 restaurants/motels with their trademark orange roofs found alongside the interstate highways. However, today although we still have “Howard Johnson” motels, the restaurants were sold off and now there is only one Howard Johnson’s restaurant in existence. The last HoJo is located at Lake George, New York.

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2. Gino's Hamburgers

Gino’s Hamburger was opened by the NFL Hall of Fame defensive end, Gino Marchetti in 1957. It grew rapidly in its first ten years. The franchise had over 300 company-owned locations in the 1970s and held the franchise rights for selling Kentucky Fried Chicken in the Mid-Atlantic States. The franchises were sold to Marriott in 1982 and all locations were quickly turned into Roy Rogers, a restaurant franchise owned by Marriott. In 2010, Gino’s hamburger made a comeback! They opened a new restaurant franchise under the name Gino’s Burgers & Chicken.

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3. Burger Chef

It is hard to believe that the international restaurant giant McDonalds was once rivaled by Burger Chef. Burger Chef even introduced some fast-food staples, such as kids’ meals with toys. However, they were sold to Hardee’s in the early 1980s.

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4. Sambo's

The first Sambo’s was opened in the late 1950s, by Sam Battistone and Newell F. Bohnet. Although the Company claimed that the name came from a combination by the two founders’ names, it remained mired in controversy, as the name was also used as a derogatory term for African Americans. The franchises that once owned more than 1,000 restaurants shut down in the 1980s due in part to the controversy over its name.

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5. Chi-Chi’s

Another franchise founded by a NFL player is Chi-Chi’s, which was founded by the Packer’s wide receiver Max McGee and Marno McDermitt. It was one of the first restaurant chains that offered Mexican food in the U.S. However, although the restaurant still owns locations in Europe and Asia, the restaurant exited U.S and Canada in 2003 when a Hepatitis A outbreak in the food supply led to several customer deaths.

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6. Kenny Rogers' Roasters

Kenny Rogers’ Roasters was founded by country music star Kenny Rogers and John Y. Brown in early 1990s. Although immortalized in the hit TV sitcom Seinfeld, the franchise failed to break into the mass market and was sold to Nathan’s in 1998.

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7. Bennigan's

Casual dining/sports-bars are quite popular these days, but one of the first of its kind, Bennigan’s, collapsed. Founded in 1976, Bennigan’s was sold several times and filed for bankruptcy in 2008.

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8. Steak and Ale

Steak and Ale was one of the first steakhouses to offer cheap steak with a salad bar in America. The concept was a great success. But things didn’t go smoothly with Steak and Ale and they closed their final locations in the 2010s. However, Steak and Ale may make a comeback in the near future in some form. The parent company of Bennigan’s has purchased the Steak and Ale name and states “the new Steak and Ale will once again set the standard for affordable steakhouses.” and “The new Steak and Ale, offering a polished casual experience at a casual dining price point, is positioned for phenomenal growth.”

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9. Mr. Steak

Mr. Steak was a popular restaurant chain in the 1970s and owned approximately 300 locations in America. However, they simply failed in competing against other steakhouse chains, such as Outback, Sizzler and Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus and filed bankruptcy in 1987.

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10. Minnie Pearl's Chicken

Minnie Pearl’s Chicken was founded in the 1960s and became a success initially with about 500 locations, primarily because one of the founders was the country singer Pearl. However, the restaurant chain failed to provide a cohesive menu and the food wasn’t good enough to stop the restaurant giant collapsing in the end.

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11. The All-American Burger

The All-American Burger gathered popularity when it was featured in the teen film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Although the restaurant does still exist in America, it is now more of a regional restaurant, with its only location at Massapequa, New York and all of its west coast locations closed.

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12. White Tower

White Tower was one of the first popular fast-food chains. In the 1950s, there were 230 White Tower locations. However, they were sued by another restaurant chain - White Castle - alleging unfair competition and claiming priority over the name and castle-like building design. In the end, it resulted into a settlement, pursuant to which White Tower was permitted to use the name with a licensing fee but had to abandon the building design. The chain collapsed shortly after. that.

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13. Lum's

Lum’s was once popular with its 400 locations offering a signature “beer-steamed” hot dog with distinctive glass-doored storefronts. The chains were eventually sold to KFC and the final Lum’s closed in 2009.

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14. Bob's Big Boy

Bob’s Big Boy was the first restaurant offering double-decker burgers in America. Nowadays, it only has five Bob’s Big Boy locations, all in the Los Angeles Area. It also licensed its name to more than 250 locations in Japan.

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15. Charlie Brown's Steakhouse

Charlie Brown’s was a rapid-growing regional chain that originated from New Jersey. However, although the restaurant chain went out of business, some franchise owners have managed to stay open.

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