Old Country Buffet
Old Country Buffet by Mike Kalasnik (CC BY-SA)

Chain Restaurants That Are Closing Locations — and Which Ones Could Be Next

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Old Country Buffet
Old Country Buffet by Mike Kalasnik (CC BY-SA)

Losing Our Appetite?

The pandemic has touched off another sad chapter in the retail apocalypse, with big-name stores filing for bankruptcy at an unprecedented clip. Chain restaurants and cafes, though generally in better shape than their independent counterparts, are joining the chaos. Some were solidly profitable before COVID-19 shut down dining rooms across the country, while others were already struggling. Here are many notable chains that have closed locations permanently, including some of the nation's most beloved buffet restaurants.


Related: 13 Restaurant Chains We Miss

Burger King
Jonathan Weiss/shutterstock

Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons

Locations closed or closing: Hundreds
Restaurant Brands International is hitting pause on its normally fast-paced growth amid the pandemic. Instead, it plans to identify and close "several hundred" underperforming locations across its three brands: Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons. The company owns more than 27,000 restaurants around the world and hopes to eventually replace the shuttered locations. 


Related: The Best Fast Food Deals to Grab This Month

Dunkin'
Tim Gray/istockphoto
Pizza Hut
J. Michael Jones/istockphoto

Pizza Hut

Locations closed or closing: 700
Dine-in Pizza Huts still exist, but they've become quite rare. Hundreds have closed as bankrupt NPC International, one of Pizza Hut’s largest franchisees, shuttered hundreds of underperforming dine-in locations. Pizza Hut says it has also closed many "express" locations that have seen pandemic-related declines in business due to locations in transportation hubs and other hard-hit spots.


Related: 20 Fast Food Restaurants Then and Now 

Starbucks
DKart/istockphoto

Starbucks

Locations closed or closing: 500
Even mega chains aren't immune from the effects of the pandemic. Starbucks is cutting back on hard-hit urban and cafe-based locations, a decision that means it will close roughly 500 stores in the United States and another 300 in Canada by the end of 2021. However, the closings will be offset by about 850 new stores, many specializing in carryout and pickup. 


Related: 16 Things You Didn't Know About Starbucks

McDonald's
jetcityimage/istockphoto
Ruby Tuesday
Jonathan Weiss/shutterstock

Ruby Tuesday

Locations closed or closing: 185
This ubiquitous casual dining restaurant recently declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and said it will permanently close more than 180 locations across the country. It had been struggling with declining sales before the pandemic, but says closures and reduced foot traffic related to COVID-19 made restructuring a necessity. The chain will be left with more than 230 company-owned locations, as well as an undisclosed number of franchised restaurants, according to USA Today. 


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IHOP
James R. Martin/shutterstock
Godiva Cafe
Elva H./Yelp
Souplantation
LPETTET/istockphoto

Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes

Locations closed or closing: 97
The pandemic has been particularly unkind to buffets, which have had to rethink their business models in light of federal guidelines warning against self-service. Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes opted for liquidation instead of reinvention, with owner Garden Fresh Restaurants filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in mid-2020.


Related: 22 Most Popular Family Restaurants Across America

Former Old Country Buffet
Former Old Country Buffet by Dwight Burdette (CC BY)

Fresh Acquisitions

Locations closed or closing: 90+ (estimate)
Even if you've never heard of Fresh Acquisitions, you've probably heard of one of its brands, especially if you love buffets or steak: The company owns Old Country Buffet, Ryan's, Hometown Buffet, Furr's Fresh Buffet, and Tahoe Joe's Famous Steakhouse. The pandemic has forced it into Chapter 11 and closed most of its restaurants, which have dwindled from about 100 to six. The company says it plans to focus on Furr's and Tahoe Joe's after it restructures; whether any of the other brands will survive remains unclear. 


Related: 24 Ways the Pandemic May Change Dining Out Forever

Steak 'n Shake
jetcityimage/istockphoto

Steak 'n Shake

Locations closed or closing: 82
There are fewer places to grab a burger and a shake after the recent closure of more than 80 Steak 'n Shake restaurants. The company was on rocky ground before COVID-19 and is struggling to refinance significant debt that will be due this year. Franchisees have complained that the company has lowered prices too much for their restaurants to remain profitable, and the chain has also struggled with declining foot traffic because of the pandemic. 


Related: The Best Value Meal Deals at 28 Chains Across the Country

Le Pain Quotidien
ablokhin/istockphoto
Specialty's Cafe and Bakery
©TripAdvisor

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery

Locations closed or closing: 50
This breakfast and lunch chain concentrated in California, Washington, and Illinois has opted to permanently shutter all locations. The company especially catered to nearby office workers and squarely blamed pandemic-related closures, which it said "decimated company revenues." 

bravo cucina italiana
Paul F/Yelp

Brio Tuscan Grille/Bravo Cucina Italiana

Locations closed or closing: 48
In a blow for pasta lovers everywhere, the parent company of Brio and Bravo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020. It also permanently closed nearly 50 locations during the pandemic. There is a glimmer of hope, however: Brio and Bravo have a new owner, Earl Enterprises, which has pledged to operate at least 45 of the 53 restaurants that remain. 

Bar Louie
Travis R/Yelp

Bar Louie

Locations closed or closing: 38
Don't blame COVID-19 for Bar Louie's woes. The nationwide pub chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the beginning of 2020, before pandemic-related closures, and closed nearly 40 locations. Part of the problem: declining traffic at several of its restaurants, many of which are located near struggling shopping malls. 

old chicago
Eric W/Yelp

CraftWorks

Locations closed or closing: 37
Though CraftWorks Holdings may not be a familiar name, chances are you've heard of the company's restaurants, which include Logan's Roadhouse, Old Chicago, Rock Bottom, and Gordon Biersch. CraftWorks filed for bankruptcy and closed a few dozen locations in the first couple months of 2020, and it's unclear whether there will be more closings as a new company takes over

Applebee's
William Howard/istockphoto

Applebee's

Locations closed or closing: 35
One of the nation's most ubiquitous casual dining restaurants, Applebee's saw its second-quarter same-store sales plummet nearly 50% compared with 2019. It shut down 20 restaurants in response during the third quarter and planned another 15 closures, parent company Dine Brands has said.

Chuck E. Cheese's
SweetBabeeJay/istockphoto

Chuck E. Cheese

Locations closed or closing: 34
The parent company of this iconic kids' pizza chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in summer 2020 even as many of its 550 locations reopened across the country. The CEO called COVID-19 and its closures "the most challenging event in our company's history." The company planned to permanently close nearly three dozen locations.


Related: 12 Places That Kids Love But Parents Hate

potbelly's
wdstock/istockphoto
Rubio's Coastal Grill
©TripAdvisor
Taco Cabana
©TripAdvisor
golden corral
Fabiana O/Yelp

Golden Corral

Locations closed or closingAt least 16

America's most well-known buffet chain has been attempting to reinvent itself with safer service models during the pandemic, but the process hasn't been without pitfalls. For instance, two of its largest franchisees have now filed for bankruptcy. The most recent, Platinum Corral, has closed 16 of its 28 restaurants. However, the real number of shuttered locations is likely far higher: Only 330 of the 490 pre-pandemic Golden Corrals are open right now, executives say. 

Denny's
Skyhobo/istockphoto
zinburger
©TripAdvisor

Zinburger

Locations closed or closing: 15
The main parent company of this wine and burger bar says the pandemic has made reopening impossible for most of its restaurants. All East Coast locations except three, all in New Jersey, will remain closed. Six separately owned restaurants in Arizona will remain open, too. 

Studio Movie Grill
Peter Larsen/Getty Images for HISTORY

Studio Movie Grill

Locations closed or closing: 14
Dinner and a movie are the classic night out — except, of course, during a global pandemic. Studio Movie Grill, a restaurant and theater chain with locations sprinkled around the country, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2020, when it had drained almost all of its cash reserves. Though the company was among the fastest growing in the theater business just two years ago, the pandemic led to a three-month closing. It recently re-emerged from Chapter 11 with 17 locations and plans to open two more, down from 33 before the pandemic. 

Pie Five
Brandon C./Yelp
Sizzler
Sizzler/istockphoto

Sizzler USA

Locations closed or closing: 6
Yes, Sizzler is still around, and the pandemic isn't making it any easier for this throwback of a steakhouse chain to hold on. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, citing a huge decline in dine-in business and trouble negotiating rent relief with its landlords. It has closed six restaurants permanently. There are more than 100 locations, but most are franchise-owned and will be unaffected by the filing.

The Lost Cajun
Gerard M./Yelp

In Trouble: The Lost Cajun

This casual-dining chain that serves gumbo, jambalaya, and other Cajun favorites filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2021. It cited "significant revenue losses" stemming from the pandemic, and says some restaurants are likely to close for good. Its website lists more than two dozen locations in seven states, including many in Colorado and Texas.

California Pizza Kitchen
Brett J./Yelp

In Trouble: California Pizza Kitchen

This casual dining chain, a staple at malls and shopping centers across the country, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2020. California Pizza Kitchen has more than 200 locations, many of which were several months behind on rent payments. It closed some company-owned stores before the filing and was in negotiations with landlords regarding "certain other locations."

Punch Bowl Social
Russell A./Yelp

In Trouble: Punch Bowl Social

This buzzy chain aimed to entertain patrons, not just feed them, with everything from mini golf, bowling, and shuffleboard to accompany a made-from-scratch menu. Unsurprisingly, the "eatertainment" company has struggled since the pandemic pushed dine-in business off a cliff, and it filed for Chapter 11 just a few days before Christmas.

The Cheesecake Factory
LPETTET/istockphoto

In Trouble: Cheesecake Factory

This chain has always been known for excess, from its exuberant decor to its massive menu to its calorie-packed dishes. But it may not have excess cash to draw on during the pandemic. It's among the companies that have recently rankled landlords by holding back rent payments, and analysts with S&P Global Market Intelligent give the chain a 12% chance of defaulting in the next year.


Related: These Companies Are Refusing to Pay Rent as Millions of Americans Face Eviction

Outback Steakhouse
ablokhin/istockphoto

In Trouble: Bloomin' Brands

The parent of Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba's Italian Grill, and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse managed to avoid layoffs and says its sales have been rebounding since statewide shutdowns forced most restaurants to close their dining rooms. Still, S&P gives the restaurant group a 13% chance of defaulting in 2021.

Checker's
Belly G./Yelp
dave & Buster's
Tim Gray/istockphoto

In Trouble: Dave & Buster's

Considering Dave & Buster's is somewhat of a Chuck E. Cheese for adults, it's easy to see why the chain is struggling. The company warned in 2020 that bankruptcy is inevitable if it can't reach a deal with its lenders and  announced it would be laying off 1,300 workers. It was forced to shut down multiplayer games and reconfigure its arcades to allow for social distancing.

TGI Friday's
Wolterk/istockphoto
Red Robin
NicolasMcComber/istockphoto

In Trouble: Red Robin

This family-friendly burger chain is scrambling to stay afloat and satisfy its obligations to creditors. It blames the pandemic for tanking sales right as it began implementing a turnaround strategy to bolster its already-struggling restaurants.

Luby's
Cody M/Yelp

In Trouble: Luby's/Fuddruckers

This iconic Texas-based cafeteria chain that also owns burger chain Fuddruckers has been in trouble for a while. It already closed several units, including all but one unit of its Cheeseburger in Paradise chain, in 2019. Several Fuddruckers units were recently sold, and Luby's new CEO has experience steering companies through liquidations.

Friendly's
Friendly's by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

In Trouble: Friendly's

This casual-dining chain known for its ice cream filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early November. It drew fire in 2019 for about two dozen abrupt restaurant closures, the latest in a long string of shutdowns for Friendly's, which has shrunk to about 150 locations from a peak of more than 850 in the mid-1990s. A new owner, Amici Partners, says it hopes to keep all restaurants open.

Cosí
©TripAdvisor

In Trouble: Cosi

A major round of closures in late 2019 left this once-prominent Northeastern chain with about 30 locations, down from five times that number a decade prior. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early 2020 and then sued the Small Business Administration over its requirement that restaurants in bankruptcy are ineligible for paycheck-protection loans.

TooJay's
©TripAdvisor

In Trouble: TooJay's

This chain of Florida delis is yet another company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the pandemic forced it to close for weeks. Unlike many other restaurants, it was on solid financial ground before COVID-19. The company has received over $6.4 million in federal paycheck-protection money.