In a world where popular food tastes are getting more eclectic and healthy, the restaurant business is getting tougher than ever. That’s especially true for the old guard of chain eateries, whose business models and menus are often looking more dated every year.
The new decade is upon us, and plenty of the restaurant chains you’ve gotten used to are feeling the squeeze in a market of consumers who are willing to spend more money for quality food, especially if its production methods match their personal values.
Here are some of the notable chains that have either already confirmed they will be closing locations this year or seems likely to soon.
Burger King has been making some unique changes to its menu in hopes to drive up sales — including meatless Impossible Whoppers and a coffee subscription service — but it’s still going to be shutting some doors this year. In 2019, the company reported that it had plans to cut underperforming locations in the near future. According to Restaurant Business Online, Burger King said it would close those locations in “the coming years.”
In a 2019 conference call, Pizza Hut executives announced that hundreds of its stores would be closing in the near future, including this year. The company reported that it had 7,449 location across America and that the total “could dip down close to 7,000” in the coming years, meaning the closure of about 750 restaurants. Like some other chains on this list, Pizza Hut has been leaning into the fast-casual business with a focus on locations that only offer to-go dining under the Pizza Hut Express name.
The popular chain known for family dining and delicious desserts closed a reported 23 locations in 2019, giving it one of the highest totals of any restaurant brand for the year. In the early weeks of 2020, another Friendly’s location has already been shuttered. That now-defunct restaurant was in New Hampshire, and it was the last one in the state’s seacoast region. A look at the company’s location map shows dozens of restaurants running on the East Coast, with most of them situated in the northeast.
McCormick & Schmick’s
Another chain that has already closed one restaurant in the early part of the new decade is McCormick & Schmick’s. This high-end seafood chain operates more than 30 locations from coast to coast, but it knocked one off the list in the first few hours of 2020. The company suddenly closed its San Diego restaurant on Jan. 1, just hours after it hosted a New Year’s Eve bash. When employees showed up for work, they were surprised to discover it was no longer open.
Over the course of two days in 2019, 45 Boston Market locations closed their doors forever. That number represented about 10% of the chain’s more than 450 total locations. The move was part of what the company called a “multi-faceted transformation plan,” meaning more changes will likely be incoming. The sudden closures followed a period of aggressive expansion in 2016 and 2017.
This comfort food chain, which originated in Florida in 1992, has seen its fan base grow and its empire bloom to more than 50 locations in the past few years. However, the company has already had to nix a few struggling restaurants in the new decade. On the first weekend of January 2020, it was announced that Metro Diner had suddenly closed both of its locations in Las Vegas. There’s been no word yet on whether more closures are expected.
The Mexican fast-casual chain Taco Cabana already closed a good number of locations in the early part of the new year. The company is based in Texas, and that’s the state where it suddenly shuttered 19 restaurants on Jan. 13. The closures hit Taco Cabanas in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, taking the company’s total down to 145 locations. The decision was reportedly made following losses of several million dollars.
When you’ve got a chain as massive as Subway, some closures are expected every year. But, in 2019, the company closed more than 1,000 locations, marking a decent decline from its mammoth number of locations of about 24,000 in America. As of the early days of 2020, the chain had already shuttered several locations in Pennsylvania and more are expected as it tries to grow profits.
You can always count on some Starbucks locations to close in any given year, which is simply a fact of life when you operate nearly 30,000 cafes worldwide. In 2019, the chain closed a reported 150 locations based on underperforming sales and we know of at least two stores (on in Washington, the other in California) that have closed in 2020. Of course, you can expect plenty of new Starbucks cafes to open this year as well, including some of the 100 “community stores” the coffee giant wants to open in partnership with United Way in low-income neighborhoods by 2025.
This casual-dining powerhouse has been reducing its numbers in the past few years, and there’s no reason to think that trend won’t continue in 2020. Over the past two years, Applebee’s has eliminated 110 restaurants from its empire, which still leaves it with more than 1,800 locations. In 2019, the company estimated that it should close about 20 stores per year starting this year, though that will be balanced out by new stores that will open.
If you live in Pennsylvania, you’ll probably know about Primanti Bros. The Pittsburgh-based sandwich shop chain has at least 25 restaurants spread across several states. The chain has already shrunken its portfolio a bit in 2020, closing two locations in Indianapolis in January; another had closed in 2019. That city had four Primanti Bros. restaurants in early 2019 but is now down to just one.
The chain started a rash of closings that began in 2019 and is expected to continue into this year. According to MoneyPop, the company announced it would close underperforming locations across 2019 and 2020. In January, Nation’s Restaurant News reported that Friday’s would shut down at least two more locations, both located inside California malls, in 2020.
This is another chain that has yet to officially announce closures for 2020, but given the news in recent months, it’s tough to imagine more closures aren’t coming soon. Red Robin closed at least 10 locations in 2019 before announcing in November that they’d hired a new CEO, Paul Murphy. They also announced in November that sales and traffic had slipped slightly in 2019. Murphy quickly closed underperforming locations when he was an executive at Noodles & Co. in 2017, so it’s likely his tenure at the top of Red Robin will follow that tactic.
The Chinese-food chain P.F. Chang’s has already closed a location in the early days of 2020 — but it came with a catch. The company shuttered its last restaurant in Chicago, but is going to open the first of its new style of locations in that city. Like some other sit-down chains, P.F. Chang’s is experimenting with a new business model. P.F. Chang’s To Go locations will cater to customers who want speed and convenience rather than the sit-down experience.
It’s not just massive fast-food chains that are closing locations this year. Yauatacha, a Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant that operates just seven locations around the world, is set to close its only American location, in Houston, in February. The location is closing down just three years after it opened. You can see the beauty the chain puts into its food in the Instagram post from Yauatacha’s London location.
Not to be confused with the brand of cookies, Famous Amos is a Florida-based restaurant chain that has been in operation since 1967. In January 2020, the small chain announced it would be closing one of its Jacksonville locations, leaving just two of them in existence. As you can see from their Facebook post, the regional chain specialized in old-school diner fare, including omelets.
Closures Likely: Marie Callender’s
It’s been a rough few years for both Perkins and its sister bakery chain, Marie Callender’s. In August 2019, the parent company filed for bankruptcy protection, and a combined 29 of the two restaurants closed suddenly, including 19 Marie Callender’s locations, taking that brand’s total down to just 28 nationwide heading into 2020. The entire notion of a Marie Callender’s restaurant could now be in question, as their parent company sold assets related to Perkins restaurants to a newly created LLC, leaving the Marie Callender’s brand hoping another buyer will take them.
Closures Likely: Steak ‘n Shake
This chain known for its steakburgers and milkshakes hasn’t announced closures for 2020 yet, but it seems quite likely some will come. As recently as summer 2019, the Indianapolis-based company’s entire future was in question, according to a report from the Indianapolis Business Journal. The chain closed more than 100 locations in 2019 and announced a decline in foot traffic of more than 9%. With reports like that, it’s likely more stores will close in the coming year.
Closures Likely: Krystal
This Georgia-based burger chain announced plans to sell at least 100 of its company-owned restaurants to franchisees in fall 2019, and news hasn’t been much better since. In January 2020, the company filed for bankruptcy, so closures will be likely this year. The chain currently has more than 300 restaurants across 10 states, with the majority of them in Georgia and Tennessee.
Closures Likely: Houlihan’s
Just before the new year started, Houlihan’s abruptly closed several locations in states including Kansas, New Jersey and Texas. The move came on the heels of a November announcement that the chain had filed for bankruptcy. More closures are expected as the restaurant’s parent company tries to pull itself out of financial difficulties. Houlihan’s still has at least 30 locations spread across 16 states, with the majority of them being situated in New Jersey.
Closings Likely: Luby’s
The Southern cafeteria chain has been closing locations quietly over the past few years and is still posting losses. As of July 2019, the company had 80 Luby’s restaurants still in operation, but you can expect that to shrink a bit again this year, based on their most recent financial reporting. Luby’s saw a slight decrease in traffic and sales in 2019, even after it had closed six locations in a matter of months.
Closures Likely: Fuddruckers
This burger chain is owned by the same company that owns Luby’s and has been hit by lost revenue as well. Its parent company closed 18 Fuddruckers locations between the end of 2018 and mid-2019 before posting losses of 6% in sales and nearly 9% in foot traffic. Those numbers make it likely that more Fuddruckers locations will close their doors in 2020.
Closures Likely: Granite City Food & Brewery
View this post on Instagram
#FlashbackFriday to 1999 when we opened our first location in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Today we have 32 locations in 13 different states. Cheers to the memories! 🍻 . . . . . #NoFilter #GraniteCityBrewery #GCFB #Brewery #GraniteCity #FoodandBrewery #CraftBeer #StCloud #MN #Minnesota #BrewerysInMinnesota #Foodies #BeerLovers #Beer #CraftBeerJunkie #FreshBeerTasteBetter #MinnesotaBeer
This chain has restaurants across 13 states, stretching from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. Its growth is likely to take a hit this year, as the company filed for bankruptcy in the final weeks of 2019. According to the press release from Granite City Food & Brewery announcing its bankruptcy filing, the chain hopes to sell its assets in the hopes it will preserve jobs at its current locations, but closures seem likely given the grave news. On Instagram, it posted a shot of its original eatery, located in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Closures Likely: BurgerIM
One of the newer chains on the list, BurgerIM may have grown too fast for its own good when it took off in the past few years. The first U.S. restaurant in this burger spot’s empire opened in 2016, and it has an estimated 200 of them across the country now. All that expansion came at a cost, and trade publication Restaurant Business reported late in 2019 that BurgerIM is expected to file for bankruptcy. This would mean that several locations will likely close their doors in 2020. You can see the company’s unique take on a chicken sandwich in the Instagram post below, which shows one wrapped in a lettuce “bun.”
In the past decade, Hooters restaurants have started disappearing at a noticeable rate, leading many to wonder if it was because of the way the chain dresses its iconic women servers. Whatever the reason behind the decline of Hooters, the company has continued to close locations, including at least a couple in the early months of 2020. In March, a restaurant in Dublin, California closed up after 16 years in business and one in Merritt Island, Florida shuttered after 20 years. One employee described the staff and customers at the Florida location as “a family.”
In the first weeks of 2020, Golden Corral joined the list of chains to close restaurants this year. The chain, which is known for its all-you-can-eat buffet service, has saw at least two long-serving locations close permanently before February. On Jan. 3, a location that had been operating in Greensboro, North Carolina for 20 years suddenly shut down. That closure happened because the restaurant didn’t meet new criteria set forth by Golden Corral about its locations. A few weeks later, a location in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho shuttered because it couldn’t compete with other restaurants in the area.
Bravo! Cucina Italiana
The Italian restaurant chain, Bravo!, currently operates locations in 12 states stretching from New Mexico to Virginia. That is likely to change this year, however, due to financial problems its parent company has had. FoodFirst Global Restaurants has already closed 71 of its restaurants — including Bravo! locations — in recent months and filed for bankruptcy in April, amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Experts in the industry are now wondering how many Bravo! restaurants will open again when the outbreak is behind us.
Brio Tuscan Grille
Another victim of the financial struggles of FoodFirst Global Restaurants is Brio Tuscan Grille. This Italian chain is a sister company of Bravo! and has also seen locations close in recent months. Currently, there are Brio restaurants in 13 states, from California to North Carolina, but it seems likely that more will close after the recent bankruptcy filing. Along with its food, the chain is known for its elegant storefronts, including the one shown below on the brand’s Instagram.