Chain restaurants and fast food joints are part of American culture, and at times, we might even underestimate how much of an impact these dining establishments have on us. While some have been going strong since the 50’s like McDonalds, many others that were just as well known faded into oblivion. Still more are on their last breath, with only one or two restaurants left. Here are some of the restaurant chains that are soon going to be found only in history books.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Bennigan’s was the Irish-themed restaurant for families to go to. Known for happy waitresses clad in blue vests, mediocre wings and being the embodiment of all things 80’s, Bennigan’s soon saw a huge plummet in sales by 2000. In 2008, Bennigan’s declared bankruptcy and began shuttering its stores. By 2011, the entire chain, which used to be composed of over 200 locations, totaled 33 working locations. Oddly enough, two of the last remaining chain stores are currently in New Jersey.
No 80’s child could say that they didn’t know the catchy TCBY jingle that played relentlessly on TV. Dubbed as the first frozen yogurt chain that marketed itself to dieters, TCBY had almost 1,400 stores at its peak. Thanks to a rise in competition from Pinkberry and other similar fro yo establishments, TCBY’s locations have shrunk to a mere 405 stores across the country. It seems that TCBY still can’t keep up with the trendiness of Pinkberry and Let’s Yo!
- White Tower
White Tower is exactly what it sounds like – a White Castle rip off. White Castle did take them to court, and obviously won. That didn’t keep White Tower from succeeding from the 1920’s all the way up until the 1970’s, though. At this chain’s peak, they had over 100 locations. Now, there’s just one lonely White Tower left in business.
If there was ever a chain restaurant that was doomed to fail just from the name alone, it’s Sambo’s. The entire chain, which was actually named after a mixture of the two founders’ names, was themed after a story called “Little Black Sambo.” In the 1980’s, when the chain was at it’s best shape, there was over 1,100 restaurants. Naming (and theming) the restaurant after a racist term, however, proved to be their undoing. Activists boycotted and picketed the restaurants until they fell – one by one. Surprisingly, there is still one Sambo’s open in California.
- Howard Johnson’s
Back in the days of the 50’s, Howard Johnson’s wasn’t only a hotel chain. There were restaurants associated with the name, too. Once considered to be the all-American restaurant for upscale dining, Howard Johnson’s was a nationwide success that served chicken, fried clams, French fries, and other goodies. Partly due to the fact that the chain never bothered to specialize in a specific food, and partly due to a shift in consumer taste, the chain declined after 1970. Over 870 Howard Johnson’s chains existed at its highest peak. Now, only two remain.
Recognize any of these chains? Have you been to one recently? Tell us in the comments below.