Ruby Tuesday
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Chain Restaurants That Are Closing Locations This Year — and Which Ones Could Be Next

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Losing Our Appetite?

Last year was another sad chapter in the retail apocalypse, with big-name stores closing hundreds of locations. This year, chain restaurants are joining the chaos. Some were solidly profitable before COVID-19 shut down dining rooms across the country, while others, including recently bankrupt Ruby Tuesday, were already struggling. Here are several notable chains that have permanently closed locations this year, and others at risk of following in their footsteps. (Are you still skittish about going out to eat? You're not alone. Check out these 10 Businesses Americans Will Avoid Even After They Reopen.)

Related: Companies That Have Filed for Bankruptcy Since the Pandemic Began

Burger King
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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.

Dunkin'
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Dunkin'

Locations closed or closing: Up to 800
Dunkin' says as many as 800 of its more than 9,000 U.S. locations could close by the end of the year as it works to shed underperforming locations and others that don’t fit its new growth strategy. The closures include 450 Dunkin’ shops inside of Speedway gas stations.

Related: Dunkin' vs. Krispy Kreme: Who Has the Better Tasting Doughnuts?

Starbucks
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Starbucks

Locations closed or closing: Up to 400
Even mega chains aren't immune from the effects of the pandemic. Starbucks recently announced it is cutting back on cafe-based locations, a decision that means it will close up to 400 company-operated stores in the United States and Canada over the next 18 months. However, the closings will be offset by about 300 new stores specializing in carryout and pickup.

Pizza Hut
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Pizza Hut

Locations closed or closing: Up to 300
Dine-in Pizza Huts still exist, but they're about to become even more rare. Bankrupt NPC International, one of Pizza Hut’s largest franchisees, will soon close up to 300 underperforming stores. Many of the locations have dining rooms, and Pizza Hut has been turning away from dine-in restaurants as it focuses on pickup and delivery.

Related: 20 Fast Food Restaurants Then and Now

McDonald's
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Ruby Tuesday
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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. 

Souplantation
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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 have opted for liquidation instead of reinvention, with owner Garden Fresh Restaurants filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May.

Related: 22 Most Popular Family Restaurants Across America

Steak 'n Shake
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Steak 'n Shake

Locations closed or closing: 69
There are fewer places to grab a burger and a shake after Steak 'n Shake's closure of 69 restaurants this year. The company was on rocky ground before COVID-19 and is struggling to refinance significant debt that will be due next year. Franchisees have complained that the company has lowered prices too much for their restaurants to remain profitable.

Related: The Best Value Meal Deals at 30 Chains Across the Country

Le Pain Quotidien
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Le Pain Quotidien

Locations closed or closing: 63
This Panera-like European import with U.S. locations clustered mostly on the East and West Coasts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, citing pandemic-related shutdowns as the reason. A new owner, Aurify Brands, is set to reopen only 35 of its 98 U.S. stores.

Specialty's Cafe and Bakery
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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."

IHOP
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IHOP

Locations closed or closing: 49
Takeout and delivery haven't been enough to save some IHOP locations during the pandemic. A major IHOP franchisee in the Southeast filed for bankruptcy in May, closing nearly 50 restaurants in the process. IHOP's president has acknowledged particular challenges for breakfast-focused restaurants, saying people who are staying home are more likely to order out for lunch or dinner.

Related: How Drive-In Restaurants Are Catering to Customers Amid the Pandemic 

bravo cucina italiana
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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. 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
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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 in January, 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
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Chuck E. Cheese's
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Chuck E. Cheese

Locations closed or closing: 34
The parent company of this iconic kids' pizza chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late June 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 said it plans to permanently close nearly three dozen locations.

Related: 12 Places That Kids Love But Parents Hate

Taco Cabana
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Denny's
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zinburger
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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.

Rubio's Coastal Grill
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Pie Five
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Sizzler
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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.

California Pizza Kitchen
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California Pizza Kitchen

Locations closed or closing: "Several"
This casual dining chain, a staple at malls and shopping centers across the country, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The most prominent restaurant to file since Chuck E. Cheese, California Pizza Kitchen has more than 200 locations, most of which are 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."

Golden Corral
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In Trouble: Golden Corral

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, its largest franchise operator, Florida-based 1069 Restaurant Group, has filed for bankruptcy. It owns 33 locations but says it may continue to operate just 24. 

The Cheesecake Factory
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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.

Outback Steakhouse
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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 the next year. 

Applebee's
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In Trouble: Applebee's

One of the nation's most ubiquitous casual dining restaurants, Applebee's saw its second-quarter same-store sales plummet nearly 50% compared with last year. Executives with parent company Dine Brands say it's likely some restaurants will close, as is the case with sibling brand IHOP.

Checker's
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potbelly's
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In Trouble: Potbelly

It's not yet official, but this fast-casual sandwich shop says it may close up to 100 locations this year, or roughly 20% of the chain's footprint. The company is also in danger of declaring bankruptcy as it works to survive massive sales declines stemming from COVID-19.

dave & Buster's
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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 has warned that bankruptcy is inevitable if it can't reach a deal with its lenders and recently announced it will be laying off 1,300 workers. Second-quarter revenue was down 85% during the second quarter of 2020, and the company has been forced to shut down multiplayer games and reconfigure its arcades to allow for social distancing.

TGI Friday's
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In Trouble: TGI Fridays

Like Ruby Tuesday, TGI Fridays was among the casual-dining stalwarts on unstable ground long before COVID-19. The CEO acknowledged in an interview in May that up to 20% of the chain's 386 locations may close this year, saying the pandemic has sent the company into a "triage" mindset with sales down by around half.

Related: 19 American Restaurants That Revolutionized the Way We Eat

Red Robin
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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
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In Trouble: Luby's/Fuddruckers

Want to bail out this iconic Texas-based cafeteria chain? Struggling Luby's is up for sale. The company that also owns burger chain Fuddruckers has been in trouble for a while, and already closed several units, including all but one unit of its Cheeseburger in Paradise chain, last year. 

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

In Trouble: Friendly's

This casual-dining chain known for its ice cream drew fire last year for about two dozen abrupt restaurant closures. They were just 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. The pandemic has necessitated layoffs and store closures, but the company says they're temporary.

Cosí
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In Trouble: Cosi

A major round of closures late last year 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 late February and then sued the Small Business Administration over its requirement that restaurants in bankruptcy are ineligible for paycheck-protection loans.

TooJay's
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In Trouble: TooJay's

This chain of Florida delis is yet another company filing 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.