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18 Chain Restaurants That are Closing Locations This Year — and 11 That Could Be Next

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Empty yellow and red upturned chairs
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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 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? 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

Dunkin'
Tim Gray/istockphoto
Starbucks
DKart/istockphoto
McDonald's
jetcityimage/istockphoto
Ruby Tuesday
Jonathan Weiss/shutterstock

Ruby Tuesday

Locations closed or closing: 148
This ubiquitous casual dining restaurant has shuttered nearly 150 locations in 25 states since late January, according to media reports. Though the company has been relatively close-lipped about the shutdowns, it was struggling before the pandemic to find its footing as more customers opt for fast food or fast-casual restaurants over sit-down dining.

Souplantation
LPETTET/istockphoto
Le Pain Quotidien
ablokhin/istockphoto

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 re-open only 35 of its 98 U.S. stores.

Steak 'n Shake
jetcityimage/istockphoto
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
James R. Martin/shutterstock

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
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. 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 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
SweetBabeeJay/istockphoto

Chuck E. Cheese

Locations closed or closing: 34
The parent company of this iconic kid's 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
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.

Rubio's Coastal Grill
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Pie Five
Brandon C./Yelp
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, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The most prominent restaurant to file since Chuck E. Cheese, California Pizza Kitchen has not said whether it will close any of its more than 200 locations, most of which are several months behind on rent payments.

Checker's
Belly G./Yelp
potbelly's
wdstock/istockphoto

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
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. Same-store sales were down almost 60% during the first 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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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.

Pizza Hut
RiverNorthPhotography/istockphoto

In Trouble: NPC International

The largest operator of iconic fast-food brands Pizza Hut and Wendy's was already on shaky footing at the beginning of the year, with a debt burden approaching $1 billion. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the beginning of July.

Related: 20 Fast Food Restaurants Then and Now

Luby's
Cody M/Yelp

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.