20 American Fast Food Chains We Grew Up With (That Are No Longer Around)

Fast food restaurants, a treat to children, an easy meal for people on the go, and a way out of cooking for over-stressed mothers looking to feed their family, while also getting a break from cooking.

From the ’50s to the ’90s, various restaurants opened all around the country. From sit down diners where families could have a freshly cooked meal to fast food joints where they could go grab a quick burger and fries.

As the times changed though, so did the restaurant business. More and more places opened up and soon, these older places found they no longer had a place in this time period. That is when they slowly started to close due to bankruptcy, being bought out, or merging with other restaurants.

Here are 20 restaurants that we grew up with, that are no longer with us.

20 Steak & Ale Inspired Too Much Competition, Leading To Its Demise

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Norman Brinker, the man who gave us Chilli’s and Jack in the Box, was unsuccessful when it came to his Steak & Ale restaurant that first launched in 1966.

By 1976, Norman had 109 restaurants in 24 states before selling the chain to Pillsbury. That was right during the big “fast-casual dining” boom though, and the chain just couldn’t keep afloat. Metromedia bought the brand and shut the last 50 restaurants down in 2009.

19 Howard Johnson's Was Just Too Basic

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In 1925, Howard Deering Johnson borrowed $2,000 to open a pharmacy. That pharmacy later turned into a chain of Howard Johnson restaurants.

Due to a lack of ideas, a stale menu and competition, the chain started to shut down and by 2005, there were only eight left in the US.

As of 2018, there is only one store left open in Lake George, New York.

18 Horn & Hardart Closed When Fast Food Chains Started To Take Off

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On December 22, 1888, Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart opened their first restaurant in Philadelphia, Pa.

It was a restaurant before its time. Consisting of a small lunchroom with no tables and just a counter with 15 stools. Costumers would sit down and order their food from a vending machine. It later evolved into a chain of restaurants.

With the rise of fast-food chains though, the Autmat Horn & Hardart restaurants started to close.

17 Gino's Hamburgers Was Sold & Later Converted To Roy Rogers


Back in 1957, Joe Campanella, Louis Fisher, and Alan Ameche opened their first Gino’s Hamburgers restaurant out in Dundalk, Maryland.

In 1967, Gino’s merger with Tops Drive Inn, a chain of 18 drive-inn restaurants.

By 1982, the chain had over 359 locations before Marriott Corporation bought the company out and converted most locations to Roy Rogers restaurants.

16 Burger Chef Was Sold To Hardees


Burger Chef was a fast-food restaurant that opened back in 1954 out in Indianapolis, Indiana.

By 1973, the restaurant was at its peak with 1,050 locations, including some in Canada. By 1982 though, the owners started to sell the chains to Hardee's.

The final restaurant with the Burger Chef name closed in 1996.

15 Minnie Pearl Chicken Was Sued & Had To Close Down

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In 1968, John Jay Hooker launched a fried chicken chain called Minnie Pearl’s Chicken, named after the legend Minnie Pearl.

With over 500 locations, their quality started lacking and people started choosing their rival KFC, a fast-food chain known for quality and consistency, over them.

They were later sued due to taxes and shut down shortly after.

14 Sambo's Got Hit With Anti-Discrimination Claims & Was Forced To Close Its Doors


Sambo’s is a restaurant that started in 1957 and by 1979, had 1,117 restaurants in 47 states.

Unfortunately, things started to go downhill for the chain in the late ’70s due to its name, which some found racist toward African-Americans.

To re-brand, the company tried to rename several locations that were still open. It didn’t work though and that mixed in with bankruptcy caused it to close its doors.

13 Chi Chi's Got Shut Down After A Bad Batch Of Onions


Chi-Chi’s was a Mexican restaurant that first opened back in 1975 and expanded to 237 chains by 1986.

After 1986, the restaurant started to go downhill, but the icing on the cake happened in 2003, when a Pittsburgh restaurant served a batch of green onions which started the largest outbreak of hepatitis in history, causing the demise of least four people and sickening 660.

12 Lum's Went Bankrupt

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Lum’s was a chain of hot dog stands that was first founded down in Miami Beach, Florida back in 1956 and had more than 400 locations nationwide during its peak years.

In 1978, the chain was purchased by Wienerwald. It overtaxed itself though and it wasn’t long before the chain was claiming bankruptcy and closing its doors one by one.

11 White Tower Was A Rip Off Of White Castle That Customers Grew Tired Of

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White Tower first opened in 1926 and was an obvious copycat of the famous White Castle.

WC sued them in the early 1930s, but they came to a settlement and went on to open even more locations. By the 1950s, they had 230 locations, but when people started moving away from the areas they were located, the business started going downhill. They closed their last restaurant in Toledo, Ohio back in 2004.

10 Beefsteak Charlie's Went Bankrupt

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Beefsteak Charlie’s was a big-time restaurant that had over 60 locations in the early 1980s.

In 1985, Beefsteak Charlies, Inc, changed its name to Lifestyle Restaurants and then merged with Bombay Palace Restaurants. At the time, there were only 48 locations still open, and when Bombay filed bankruptcy, two years later, it had only 35.

In 2003, there was one restaurant still open, but no one knows if it’s in connection to the old chain.

9 Wimpy Grills Wasn't As Big Of A Hit As It Was In The UK

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The first Wimpy Grills, inspired by J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon, was opened in Bloomington, Indiana back in 1934 by Edward Gold.

By 1947, the restaurant had grown to 26 chain restaurants. Sadly, the business dwindled and by the time of Edward’s demise in 1977, there were only seven locations left open.

After his demise, the chain just vanished due to no one buying the rights and trademark from Gold’s estate.

8 VIP's Was Sold After Denny's Made An Offer Too Good To Pass Up

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First starting in 1968, VIPs became one of the most popular restaurant chains with over 50 locations throughout the Western US.

The chain was known for being mostly located near freeways. A great place to eat or just have a coffee for late-night travels since it was open 24 hours.

By 1984 though, the chain started selling off certain locations, and by 1989, the last location was sold.

7 Isaly's Started Closing After Shifting Customer Demands, And A Decline In Home Delivered Milk


Isaly’s was a family-owned operation that first started in the early 1900s.

Up until the 1960s, the chain was known for its high-quality milk, “Skyscraper Cones,” chopped ham sandwiches and the most important legacy to ever be created, Klondike Bars.

Sadly, it was unable to keep up with its competitors and the changing of times and it started closing its doors.

6 Schrafft's Was Purchased & Then Split Up

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Starting as a candy manufacturer, the first-ever Schrafft's candy store to open was in 1898 in upstate NY. By 1906, the Syracuse store had started selling food and by 1927, there were 25 restaurant chains throughout NY.

During its peak, there were 50 locations before the candy company was sold in the 1960s and the new owner tried to re-brand it but failed. By 1981, there were only a few restaurants open.

5 Red Barn Was Shut Down After New Owners Bought The Company That Really Didn't Care About It


Founded in 1961, The Red Barn once had between 300 and 400 restaurants throughout 19 states, as well as some in Canada and Australia.

Sadly, when it was sold, the new owners only cared about real estate, construction, and financial services. They stopped all advertising for the food chain and it soon led to its demise.

Currently, there is only one location left open in Racine, Wisconsin.

4 D'Lites Of America Went Bankrupt


D’Lites was a restaurant chain that opened in 1983 and was known for serving more nutritious food.

By 1985, the restaurant had grown to over 100 stores, but sadly stopped franchising a year later and had to close several stores. By the end of 1986, the company had filed for bankruptcy.

In 1987, 90% of the remaining D’Lites had rebranded as Hardee’s. The remaining were bought out and renamed to avoid infringement.

3 Valle's Steak House Started Closing After Getting Hit With An Inheritance Tax After Owner Passed


Valle’s Steak House was a restaurant that first opened back in 1933 and was located on the East Coast of the US.

The family-owned business started to expand in the 1970s, but with the gas crisis, an increase in labor costs, and the demise of the owner, the restaurant started to go downhill.

The last restaurant closed in August 2000.

2 Wag's Restaurant Just Didn't Catch On

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Wag’s was a restaurant chain owned and operated by Walgreens.

By 1988, the chain had 91 restaurants, all of which Walgreens sold to Marriott Corporation. When Marriott started selling off its assets though, they couldn’t find a buyer for all the Wag’s restaurants and the ones left unsold went out of business in 1991.

Those that were sold were bought by Lunan Corporation and remained Wag’s Restaurant until being converted into a Shoney’s.

1 Sandy's Was One Of The First Ever McDonald's That Merged With Hardees In The '70s & Just Disappeared


Sandy’s is a chain of fast-food restaurants that first opened in 1956.

By 1966, it had evolved into 121 chains in five different states. On November 30, 1971, Hardee’s bought out all of Sandy’s stock after the business had fallen short on cash.

In 1973, 90% of the remaining stores still opened switched to Hardee’s, while the remaining 10% were bought out by new owners and forced to change their name.

Sources: en.wikipedia.org, thedailymeal.com

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