buffet
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These Buffet Restaurant Chains Have Closed Locations Permanently

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Fried chicken buffet bar self serve catering with tongs
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Stick a Fork in ’Em

It may be the end of an era for one of America’s favorite places to fill up and then some: the buffet. For obvious reasons, buffet restaurants were hit hard by the pandemic, but many of the most well-known all-you-can-eat joints in the United States were already suffering before COVID-19. Here's a look at all the once-mighty buffet chains that have recently closed locations or disappeared altogether.


Related: Chain Restaurants That Are Closing Locations

Old Country Buffet/Hometown Buffet
©TripAdvisor

Old Country Buffet

Sorry, Old Country Buffet fans: Your favorite haunt for cheese biscuits is no more. This once-ubiquitous buffet was among the chains that shuttered as a result of parent company Fresh Acquisition’s bankruptcy in 2021. Old Country Buffet has a new owner, BBQ Holdings, but executives there say they have no plans to breathe new life into the once-extensive chain, which was down to just under 17 locations from hundreds at the beginning of 2019, according to Mashed. Feeling nostalgic? Check out this old Old Country Buffet training video.


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Golden Corral
jetcityimage/istockphoto

Golden Corral

The nation’s most recognizable buffet chain survived COVID-19, but not without some serious damage. As of early April 2021, only about 290 of the chain’s pre-pandemic 490 restaurants were open, according to Restaurant Business, though it was unclear how many of those closings would be permanent. Two of the largest Golden Corral franchisees filed for bankruptcy since the pandemic began, and one of them shut down 16 locations permanently. Sales at the chain were down 62% in 2020.


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Souplantation
LPETTET/istockphoto

Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes

Lunch buffet fans lost the place where they could slurp soup, get their greens, and indulge in endless bread and soft serve in March 2020, when Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes shut their doors. Hit hard by the pandemic, parent company Garden Fresh Restaurants subsequently filed for bankruptcy, opting to liquidate all of the sister chains’ 97 locations. Still in mourning? You can buy the iconic soup bowl on Amazon.


Related: Restaurant Chains We Miss

Cicis, Beyond Pizza restaurant
J. Michael Jones/istockphoto

Cicis

One of the nation’s foremost all-you-can-eat pizza chains emerged from the pandemic significantly smaller. Cicis, where you can famously down all the Mac & Cheese pizza, pasta salad, and cinnamon rolls you can handle for as little as $6, emerged from bankruptcy in 2020 with under 300 locations, down from the 420 it had at the end of 2019. The chain’s new owners hope to turn things around with more of a focus on delivery.


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Luby’s
Luby’s by Social Woodlands (CC BY)

Luby’s

This cafeteria-style buffet has a long, storied history in its home state of Texas. The first Luby’s opened in the ’40s, and the chain ballooned to more than 200 locations in the mid-’90s. Like several other closed buffet chains, though, its store count dwindled in recent years as fast-casual dining started to dominate. Sadly, in 2020, the pandemic-battered company announced plans to liquidate, and closed all locations by June 2022.

Country Cookin’
Country Cookin’ by raymondclarkeimages (CC BY-NC)

Country Cookin’

A Virginia staple since the ’70s, Country Cookin’ offered down-home favorites such as country fried steak and cornbread, but homey grub alone couldn’t save it from the pandemic. All 13 locations closed permanently in late 2020, with company officials attributing the decision to rising food and operational costs even once restaurants had reopened from their initial COVID-19 shutdowns.

HomeTown Buffet
Vince M./Yelp

HomeTown Buffet

Like Old Country Buffet, this all-you-can-eat haunt serving up comfort food fare used to be among the nation’s biggest buffet chains. But it, too, was already struggling, and was ultimately brought down for good in parent company Fresh Acquisition’s bankruptcy. Its new owner, BBQ Holdings, is also declining to bring it back.  




Ryan's
©TripAdvisor
Furr’s
Kenneth E./Yelp

Furr’s

Furr’s, which began as a cafeteria in the ’40s, was owned by another ill-fated chain, Kmart, in the 1980s. By the time the pandemic hit, it had only 16 locations in four states. Though there may still be hope for a reimagined Furr’s to emerge as an “all-you-can-eat marketplace,” there’s little evidence that any locations survived the Fresh Acquisitions bankruptcy.

Fire Mountain
Dan R./Yelp

Fire Mountain

This grilling-focused buffet chain is the final domino to fall in the Fresh Acquisitions bankruptcy. Like its sister chains, it was in deep trouble before the pandemic hit, and Google News was full of stories detailing the abrupt closings of local restaurants.

Pizza Inn
Pizza Inn/Yelp

Pizza Inn

This buffet chain serving endless pizza, salad, and dessert has been going strong for more than 60 years and still has dozens of restaurants spread across the South. But its footprint has shrunk: Parent company Rave Restaurant Group operated 155 Pizza Inns at the end of 2019, but the Pizza Inn website shows only about 140 locations open currently.  

Sizzler
Bryce M./Yelp
K&W Cafeteria
Ron W./yelp.com
Pizza Hut
RiverNorthPhotography / istockphoto

Pizza Hut

You may not think “buffet” when you think Pizza Hut, and that’s exactly what the company wants. Pizza Hut’s dine-in restaurants, most of which feature menu service and an all-you-can eat buffet, used to be the cornerstone of the chain, but they’re quickly fading into oblivion. Hundreds of dine-in Pizza Huts closed from 2019 through 2020, continuing a renewed focus on takeout and delivery. Yum! Brands says more closings are likely in the future, too. 


Related: Fast-Food Restaurants Then and Now

Ponderosa Steakhouse
Wikimedia Commons

Ponderosa

Ponderosa (or Bonanza, depending on your region) was a Western-themed buffet that served up slabs of meat, veggies, and chicken wings with equal aplomb. Like many of the chains on this list, it was in steady decline before the pandemic, its restaurants dwindling to 75 by 2019 from more than 300, according to Vox. Since then, its footprint has shrunk even further, with no locations for either Ponderosa or Bonanza listed on the website. 


Related: 30 American-Themed Restaurants and Attractions Around the World

Gatti’s
Ken H./Yelp

Gatti’s

Yet another pizza buffet that’s had a rough go of it, Gatti’s is primarily a Southern chain that prides itself on freshness, and most locations have game rooms to draw in kids. Still, it couldn’t escape market forces, and Gatti’s parent company filed for bankruptcy in early 2019, a decision that spurred an undisclosed number of closings.