12 Once-Popular Restaurant Chains That No Longer Exist
1. Howard Johnson's
Conceived as a way to capitalize on the growth of American car culture, Howard Johnson's hotel-restaurant chains were founded in the 1920s. During its heyday in the '60s, HoJo's was one of the most recognized brands around, and over 1,000 of its distinctive orange roofs dotted the States' highways. However, the business model of serving pre-made high-quality food quickly lost popularity when fast-food chains burst on the scene. The last HoJo's restaurant, located in Lake George, NY, closed in 2017.
2. Burger Chef
Founded by General Equipment Corporation, the hamburger chain Burger Chef, sprung up all over the country in the mid-20th century. It is famous for introducing several fast-food staples to the industry, especially kids' meals with toys. Even though there were over 12,00 Burger Chef locations by 1972, overexpansion eventually ruined the fast-food chain, and it ended up being sold to Hardee's in 1981.
The Pearlman brothers, Clifford and Stuart, launched first Lum's restaurant in Miami Beach in 1956, and at the time was known for its delicious beer-steamed hotdogs. With its unique menu and distinctive glass-doored storefronts, it became pretty popular pretty quick. By 1969, Lum's had more than 400 company-owned or franchised restaurants nationwide. However, after changing hands several times, Lum's filed for bankruptcy and finally closed in 1983.
4. White Tower
The success of the very first fast-food chain, White Castle, spawned a slew of imitators, including a father and son team. John E. Saxe and his son, Thomas, opened White Tower in Milwaukee in 1926, which was a blatant White Castle rip-off, from its style, menu, advertising, to even its architecture. At its peak, there were over 230 locations, but the chain gradually died after White Castle's legal action against them. The last one shuttered in 2014.
5. Red Barn
The Red Barn was a once-popular fast-food restaurant chain, which was founded in 1961 in Springfield, Ohio. Known for its barn-like shape and self-service salad bars, it had about 300-400 restaurants in 19 states, as well as outlets in Canada and Australia during its prime. By the 1980s, Red Barn's parent company was bought out by Motel 6, and unfortunately, the chain went defunct in 1988 due to bad management.
6. Minnie Pearl's Chicken
This line of fast-food chicken restaurants borrowed the name from well-known country singer Minnie Pearl, and its business boomed in the 1960s. At one point, there were more than 500 locations across the country. However, each restaurant had a different recipe, which created confusion among customers and made the chain to end up going belly up after a few short years.
7. Gino's Hamburgers
NFL Hall of Famer, Gino Marchetti, founded a hamburger restaurant chain named after himself in 1957. It was quite smart of him to combine fast food and sports, and Gino's was able to boast over 300 locations by the '70s. Unfortunately, the glory days didn't last. In the early 1980s, Marchetti sold the chain to the Marriott hotel chain. But luckily for the fans, he returned to the restaurant business in 2010 and opened up a new Gino's once again!
When Sam Battistone and Newell F. Bohnett decided to open a pancake house together and name it after themselves, they totally ignored the fact that the combination "Sambo" is a derogatory term alluding to African Americans. After the chain spread to the Northeast with over 1,100 locations open, they paid the price for their negligence. Sambo's went bankrupt rapidly due to the loss of customers, and it was sold to Denny's in the '80s.
This Georgia-based burger chain marketed itself with an unusual tactic on fast food. It sold food with high nutritional value, noted for its low-calorie cheese, buns high in fiber and hamburgers made with lean beef. D'Lites had a short-lived success for almost a decade, but its downfall quickly came when the competing chains, such as McDonald's and Burger King, started to offer even healthier menu options.
10. Henry's Hamburgers
Henry's Hamburgers, founded by Bresler's Ice Cream Company, was one of the countless mimics of McDonald's. It was known for its milkshakes and malts, even owning more locations than McDonald's by the early 1960s. Unfortunately, Henry's started to decline in the 1970s for it failed to diversify the menu and resulted in only one location still being open today in Benton Harbor, MI.
Sandy's was launched by four disgruntled McDonald's employees in the mid-1960s, and it offered very similar menus to the golden arches. However, the founders' venture only lasted about 20 years, for they lacked the advertising ability as the bigger fast-food chains had. Sandy's merged with Hardee's in the early '70s, and the brand disappeared very soon.
Marno McDermitt and NFL star Max McGee founded Chi-Chi's in the 1970s. The chain had 210 locations by March of 1995, managing to introduce intensely flavored Tex-Mex cuisine to many American towns. However, the largest Hepatitis A outbreak in American history forced Chi-Chi's to shut its door in 2004. People could only taste it salsa in their dozen restaurants still existing in Europe now.