30 Defunct Fast Food Chains and What Happened to Them
Today, there is no bigger fast-food chain in the world than McDonald’s. With more than 39,000 locations in about 100 different countries, McDonald’s not only dominates the industry, but the company has seen many competitors come and go over the past several decades.
Especially in the United States, fast-food chains will always hold a special spot in the hearts of many. This infographic looks at 30 memorable fast-food chains that all eventually met their demise for one reason or another.
All of these popular fast-food chains ultimately closed their doors for different reasons, whether it was due to bankruptcy, being sold, or merging with another company. Here are some of those popular chains that have some very interesting stories.
- All Star Cafe: Founded in 1995, All Star Cafe had several celebrity investors, including Ken Griffey Jr., Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, and Shaquille O’Neal. Originally owned by Planet Hollywood, the chain opened its first location in New York City, but by 2001, all locations but one had closed. That one location was purchased by Disney and remained at Walt Disney World until 2007.
- Burger Chef: For more than 40 years, Burger Chef was a major fast-food chain in the United States, based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Originally founded in 1954, Burger Chef had 1,050 different locations at its peak in the 1970s, and it was eventually purchased by Hardee’s.
- Chi-Chi’s: Perhaps no chain saw a more disastrous end to their run as a restaurant chain as Chi-Chi’s did. Originally founded in 1975, the popular Tex-Mex chain saw big expansion across both the United States and Europe, having opened 230 locations at the company’s height. However, the company would not only file for bankruptcy in 2003 but would see even more chaos as they looked to close their doors: Just one month after filing for bankruptcy, Chi-Chi’s was hit with the largest outbreak of hepatitis A ever seen in the United States.
- D’Lites: In the 1970s and 1980s, McDonald’s and Burger King were becoming so successful in the United States that several fast-food chains were shutting down because they simply couldn’t keep up. D’Lites took the approach of being a health-conscious fast-food chain, which brought success for some time, until fast-food giants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King began to do the same, offering salads, baked potatoes, and more, which spelled the end for D’Lites. Following their closure in 1987, most of the locations became Hardee’s restaurants.
- Gino’s Hamburgers: In the mid-1900s, one of the most popular hamburger chains across America was Gino’s Hamburgers. Based out of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Gino’s Hamburgers was owned and led by Gino Marchetti, who was a captain for the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League. At its peak, Gino’s Hamburgers had 359 locations open, but it was eventually purchased in 1982 by the Marriott Corporation. Following the deal, the Marriott Corporation rebranded the locations as Roy Rogers restaurants, and the final Gino’s location closed its doors in 1986.
See below for the full list of defunct fast food restaurants on our list:
|Name of Restaurant||Headquarters Location||Number of Locations (at Peak)||Fate of Restaurant||Notes|
|All Star Café (1995-2007)||Orlando, FL||9||Bankruptcy||Investors included Ken Griffey Jr., Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, and Shaquille O’Neal. It was originally owned by Planet Hollywood. The chain first opened in New York City and closed all locations but one by 2001. The final location, which was purchased by Disney, remained open at Walt Disney World until 2007.|
|Burger Chef (1954-1996)||Indianapolis, IN||1,050||Sold||Burger Chef had 1,050 locations in the 1970s but was eventually purchased by Hardee’s. The Big Shef and Super Shef burgers were two of the hottest-selling items.|
|Chicken George (1979-1991)||Baltimore, MD||6||Bankruptcy||In 1980, the chain was called “the highest-grossing single chicken outlet in the country,” and at its peak, it had locations in Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. In 1991, they folded due to bankruptcy.|
|Chi-Chi’s (1975-2004)||Richfield, MN||230||Bankruptcy||This popular Tex-Mex chain expanded across both the United States and Europe. One month after filing for bankruptcy in 2003, Chi-Chi’s was hit with the largest outbreak of hepatitis A ever seen in the United States.|
|D’Lites (1978-1987)||Norcross, GA||More than 100||Bankrupcty||This health-conscious fast-food chain offered healthier options than their competitors, but when chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s began to do the same in the form of salads, baked potatoes, and other items, it spelled the end for D’Lites. Most of the locations became Hardee’s restaurants.|
|Dee’s Drive-In (1932-Late 1970s)||Salt Lake City, UT||More than 50||Sold||This hamburger shop originally opened near the University of Utah and saw success, then expanded. It eventually sold all remaining locations to Hardee’s.|
|Doggie Diner (1948-1986)||Oakland, CA||30||Closed||Doggie Diner became very popular across San Francisco and Oakland, but it just couldn’t keep up with major competition like McDonald’s and Burger King. Today, the brand name is used for hot dog sales at MLB’s Oracle Park, the home field of the San Francisco Giants.|
|Geri’s Hamburgers (1962-1981)||Rockford, IL||13||Closed||The chain was started by a former McDonald’s VP and had many similarities to the Golden Arches. The corporation folded in 1981, and the last independent location closed in 1999.|
|Gino’s Hamburgers (1957-1982)||King of Prussia, PA||359||Sold||Led by Baltimore Colts captain Gino Marchetti, the chain had 359 locations. In 1982, the Marriott Corporation purchased the chain and rebranded the locations as Roy Rogers restaurants. The final Gino’s closed in 1986.|
|Henry’s Hamburgers (1954-Mid 1970s)||Chicago, IL||More than 200||Closed||Henry’s Hamburgers saw much success in the 1950s and 1960s, offering “ten burgers for a buck.” By the mid-1970s, most locations began to close due to competitors diversifying their menus and adding drive-throughs. One location still remains in Benton Harbor, MI.|
|La Petite Boulangerie (1977-2000)||Mill Valley, CA||68||Sold||The U.S.-based bakery chain at one point had 140 locations but was bought and sold multiple times by Pepsi Co. (1982), Mrs. Fields Original Cookies (1987), and others before being acquired by Cucina Holdings Inc. in December of 2000.|
|Lum’s (1956-1982)||Miami Beach, FL||450||Liquidation||Lum’s had hot dogs steamed in beer and at one point had 400 locations across the United States, Europe, and Puerto Rico, but the company filed for bankruptcy in 1982. One location (Bellevue, NE) stayed in operation until 2017.|
|Milligan’s Beefy Burgers (1942-1974)||Jacksonville, FL||10||Unknown||This was Florida’s first fast-food drive through chain, and it served 450,000 burgers during the first year of operation. By 1974, the chain simply couldn’t keep up with the competition of McDonald’s and Burger King. The specifics around the demise of Milligan’s Beefy Burgers largely remain a mystery.|
|Mighty Casey’s (1980-1994)||Atlanta, GA||Unknown||Sold||The Grand Slam Burger and chopped barbecue sandwich were big hits at Mighty Casey’s! The chain was purchased by Krystal in 1994, and most of the restaurants were converted into Krystal locations.|
|Naugles (1970-1995)||Riverside, CA||More than 200||Merger||This fast-food Mexican restaurant chain started in Southern California and eventually merged with Del Taco. In 2015, an entrepreneuer brought back a few locations after the trademarks expired.|
|Pizza Haven (1958-2012)||Seattle, WA||42||Bankruptcy||The Seattle-based pizza chain eventually opened franchises in Russia, Poland, and the Middle East, with 42 locations at its height. The final location, in Seattle, closed in 2012.|
|Pumper Nic (1974-1999)||Buenos Aires, Argentina||70||Bankruptcy||Doesn’t that logo look familiar? The name was derived from pumpernickel bread, and the chain had to change their logo and name (to “Pumper”) when the first Burger King opened in Argentina in 1989.|
|Pup ‘N’ Taco (1956-1984)||Long Beach, CA||102||Sold||Hot dogs and tacos were the top items here. In 1984, 99 Pup ‘N’ Taco locations had been bought out by Taco Bell, and the final locations closed for good in 2010.|
|Red Barn (1961-1988)||Dayton, OH||Between 300 and 400||Closed||Red Barn grew to more than 300 locations and served burgers alongside self-service salad bars. In 1988, franchise licenses were allowed to expire, leading to the closure of most locations.|
|Royal Castle (1938-1975)||Miami, FL||Unknown||Liquidation||During Royal Castle’s best years, you could get a mini hambuger and their signature birch beer for a grand total of 22 cents. The company was liquidated in 1975, but one location is still in business in Miami.|
|Sambo’s (1957-1982)||Santa Barbara, CA||1,117||Bankruptcy||The chain was tied to controversy over its name, which sparked several protests and lawsuits in the United States. Following many name changes, the company eventually folded.|
|Sandy’s (1958-1979)||Kewanee, IL||Unknown||Sold||A group of four friends who were franchise owners for McDonald’s founded Sandy’s, where you could get a hamburger, fries, and a milkshake for a total of 45 cents. In 1979, the company was bought out and merged into Hardee’s.|
|Steak and Ale (1966-2008)||Dallas, TX||280||Bankruptcy||At one of Steak and Ale’s 280 locations, you could get a steakhouse filet for just $1.95! In 2008, the company’s final 58 locations closed as part of a chapter 7 bankruptcy.|
|Taco Viva (1953-1989)||Fort Lauderdale, FL||85||Sold||This Mexican-style chain restaurant had locations across 11 states and had a slightly different menu than Taco Bell. The chain would be bought and sold several times over, with the last remaining location closing in 2005.|
|Tops Drive Inn (1953-1967)||Arlington, VA||18||Merger||Tops saw most of their success in the Washington, D.C., area and even held franchise rights at one time for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The chain merged with Gino’s Hamburgers in 1967.|
|Wag’s (1970s-1991)||Deerfield, IL||91||Sold||Walgreens used to have their own 24-hour casual dining chain. In the late 1980s, Walgreens began selling off several locations, and many turned into IHOP locations, which are still open to this day.|
|Wetson’s (1959-1975)||New York, NY||70||Sold||How’s a burger-and-french-fries combo for a quarter sound? The chain was eventually sold to Nathan’s Famous Inc. after they were unable to keep up with McDonald’s and Burger King.|
|White Tower Hamburgers (1926-2004)||Stamford, CT||230||Closed||Many people considered White Tower to be a complete imitator of the much more popular White Castle, even down to their decor. Unsurprisingly, White Castle won the legal battle in court.|
|Wimpy’s Grill (1934-1978)||Bloomington, IN||1,525||Sold||While Wimpy’s was an American fast-food chain, 1,500 of its 1,525 locations were opened in the United Kingdom.|
|Winky’s (1962-1982)||Sewickley, PA||42||Bankruptcy||This hamburger chain’s three most famous sandwiches were the Big Wink, the Great One, and the Ground Rounder, and they offered hot dogs as well.|
How many of these now-defunct fast-food locations did you eat at?
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This page was last updated by Megan Miller