Businesses come and go - restaurants are no different. Some stick around for decades, cementing their place in the community and serving as a second home to locals. Others come and go in the blink of an eye, never to be mentioned again. While a few establishments, like Madrid's famous Botin Restaurant which has been open since 1725, are in it for the long haul - they're the exception rather than the rule. No matter how good the food is or how friendly the servers are, restaurants eventually give their final last call and close their doors for good.
Often times these closed restaurants are only abandoned for a short period of time. Eager restauranteurs are often quick to pounce on an appealing storefront in the hopes that their idea will be the one that lasts. Sometimes older buildings are demolished to make way for newer buildings, burying the past in a pile of rubble. But sometimes, restaurants are simply left behind and forgotten with no one to take over and reinvent the space.
Check out these 25 eerie photos of forgotten restaurants that have definitely seen better days.
25 Open All Night - Denny's
Since 1953 Denny's has been serving up breakfast for dinner and whatever else you want to eat around the clock. Originally, the chain was opened under the name Danny’s Donuts and specialized in coffee, donuts, and other breakfast specialties before evolving into the popular franchise that it is today.
Their signature breakfast dish known as the Grand Slam was first served up in 1977 as a tribute to Hank Aaron's home run record. Today, there are over 1,600 Denny's restaurants in America and around the world. But sometimes even all-night breakfast food isn't quite enough to sustain a restaurant for the long term as this now forgotten location shows.
24 A Panoramic View of City - Panorâmico
What was once an architectural innovation is now left covered in graffiti and decaying. The building that was home to Panorâmico is located in Lisbon, Portugal on a hill in Monsanto Park. It opened in 1968 and was inspired by the innovative design of architect Chaves da Costa.
It gave visitors great views of the nation's capital. The restaurant featured massive dining rooms, intricate lighting, an elegant spiral staircase, and a mural. It even hosted famous celebrities such as David Bowie. But financial troubles hit and despite several efforts to convert the space into something else, the building has been empty since 2001.
23 A 13 Million Dollar Failure - Weylu's
The massive Chinese restaurant Weylu's on Route 1 in Saugus, Massachusetts cost $13 million to build. It opened in 1989 and featured 50,000 feet of dining space that could accommodate 1,500 people at one time. But not that many people visited on a daily basis and the restaurant fell into financial trouble in the 1990s.
The original owners sold the property and Weylu's became a series of different establishments, none of which lasted very long. What was once considered a landmark in the city sat vacant for 6 years before being demolished in 2015.
22 Sometimes the Last Call Really is the Last
Small Mexican restaurants serving up classic street tacos are a favorite among many in America. But while many pop up, only a few survive for the long haul. Restaurant experts say that that's partially because these places don't always do enough to separate themselves from the crowd and show off what makes them unique.
The industry experts at Eposability say, "Successful restaurants all have a differentiated offering – a unique proposition that is carefully targeted to their intended customer base." If a spot doesn't have something that makes people remember it, they're far less likely to return.
21 No Joy to be Found
This bright space used to be a neighborhood favorite. The bright colors, open spaces, and convenient location made it the place to go to hang out with friends and have a quick lunch at the counter. But as many restaurant owners have discovered, no matter how beloved a place is, things can still go downhill.
Robert Irvine says that sometimes, this is the result of a decline in food quality - "Very slowly your most popular dish can start to veer off its intended flavor profile and your cherished execution can stray from what is best for the end product. It's key to consistently re-evaluate dishes and the quality control measures that were set into place."
20 Deserted in the Desert
This forgotten restaurant in the desert was abandoned and left to rot. Restaurants can fail for various reasons. Sometimes the food isn't good, sometimes the service is terrible, and other times - the location is the problem. If a restaurant isn't in the right spot, people aren't going to go out of their way to eat there.
"Geographical location is everything in the restaurant trade, and you’ll need to choose this with care if your restaurant is to be a success. You’ll need a site with enough footfall to attract passing custom, but without sky-high rents or overwhelming competition," says the restaurant experts at Eposability.
19 Double the Fun - Long John Silvers
A popular fast-food chain restaurant trend that has popped up across the United States over the past decade is one building that's shared by two different restaurants. It's a trend that's helped a lot of places stay open when they probably wouldn't survive if they had the building to themselves.
One of the most common combinations across America has been Long John Silver's paired with A&W. Long John Silvers being a popular option for people craving fish & chips while A&W is better known for its root beer and cheese curds. Unfortunately for this location, having a restaurant roommate didn't help it survive.
18 The Life of the Party - Ground Round Restaurant
In its heyday, Belli's Restaurant & Nightclub was a hotspot for residents of Wilbraham, Massachusetts looking to get out and enjoy a night with friends. The building was built in 1920 and was home to several restaurants over the years.
After Belli's closed, the space was converted into a Ground Round Restaurant. The Ground Round chain was founded in 1969 and aimed to bring a classic pub style restaurant to neighborhoods across America. But the franchise joined the growing number of failing chain restaurants and only maintains a couple of locations today.
17 A Famous Orange Roof - Howard Johnson's
In the 1920s, the Howard Johnson company launched their restaurants. Built alongside highways, usually with one of the company's popular hotels, the franchise grew as rapidly as the US car culture. By the 1960s, there were over 1,000 Howard Johnson's across the United States.
Famous for their bright orange roofs, the restaurants started to close seemingly as quickly as they had opened. The hotel side of the business was sold and is now known as HoJo's, but they don't resemble what the original chain was. And as of 2018, there's only one Howard Johnson's restaurant left in America.
16 Long Live the (Burger) King
Best known for its signature Whopper, Burger King is one of the most widely recognized fast-food restaurants around the world. Originally founded in 1953 as Insta-Burger King, the company was purchased by new owners a year later and given the name it's still known as today.
The franchise rose to serious fame in the 1970s with its popular advertisements and later would introduce its character "The King" as its mascot. Today, Burger King operates more than 15,000 restaurants in 100 different countries around the world. About half of those are in the United States, but its international locations serve some interesting menu items like the Doughnut Burger.
15 They've Served Their Last Customer - Spanky's BBQ
In the deserts of Southern California was this roadside Spanky's BBQ location. The chain was known for its southern style BBQ and huge portions brisket and ribs. But this location failed to attract a steady stream of customers and closed its doors with the furniture and signage left behind.
The restaurant experts at Lavu say that even a couple bad reviews on social media can be the reason for a restaurants decline. They say, "One prompted-by-bad-service Yelp review can repel potential customers, even with a dozen good reviews before and after it. " Great food can only go so far if it's served inconsistently.
14 Closed for Good
South of Lake Tazawa, in Akita Prefecture, Japan is this abandoned roadside restaurant. While most people in North America associate roadside restaurants with major chains like Cracker Barrel and Applebee's, they're pretty popular all over the world to offer drivers a place to pull off the road and grab a meal.
New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer said, "A great restaurant is one that just makes you feel like you're not sure whether you went out or you came home and confuses you. If it can do both of those things at the same time, you're hooked." It would seem as though this place didn't deliver.
13 A Lonely Heart Bar
Pennsylvania’s scenic Pocono Mountains were once known as the Honeymoon Capital of the world. It's tacky by today's standards, but newlyweds would flock to the resorts to enjoy days full of heart-shaped hot tubs, round beds, and the solitude and scenery that the mountains had to offer.
These hotels peaked in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s but the area became less popular as time went by. Many of the resorts didn't have the money to maintain or modernize the properties, making them even less popular with tourists. Some of them were abandoned completely, leaving the interiors completely as they were at the height of their popularity.
12 A Classic Greasy Spoon Meal - the Country Fare Restaurant
In 1971, the Country Fare Restaurant opened and quickly became a local staple for a great breakfast and lunch. Ownership changed in the late 80s, but the place remained very much the same for several more decades. The restaurant was even used as a set in the film Johnny and Clyde.
After being run by the same family for 44 years, the husband passed away and his wife decided to sell the building to enjoy the rest of her life away from the diner. While it's now in a state of disrepair, it's fondly remembered as one of the best places to grab breakfast or lunch in town.
11 Ready for Take-Off - The 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant
The 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant in College Park, Maryland was a popular spot for both tourists and locals alike. Situated right on Lake Artemesia, it was part of a restaurant group the specialized in creating destination restaurants around the country. They were known for having everything from a cozy bar to an elegant banquet area.
But the most unique feature of the restaurant was the collection of small antique planes on the front lawn, which disappeared shortly after it shut down. The building, which was designed to look old, is now being taken back by nature with overgrown shrubs and vines climbing up the building.
10 A Roadside Collapse - Nickerson's
Nickerson's Family Restaurants were well known for their iconic red roofs and roadside locations. The chain existed between the mid-1960s to the 1980s and had nearly 60 restaurants open at the height of their popularity. They also had a gift shop where you could buy trinkets and housemade honey.
But even with their comfortable accommodations meant to make travelers feel like they were at home, the chain wasn't able to survive. Most Nickerson's were built in very rural areas, far from any center of dense population. The idea was they would attract highway travelers eager for a homestyle meal, but they weren't able to survive on that business model.
9 It's Hard to Eat at a Stool with No Bar - Grossinger’s Catskill Resort
Just a few hours north of New York City, the Catskill Mountains are home to gorgeous mountains and lakes. It's not hard to see why investors wanted to capitalize on the scenic area with summer and ski resorts meant to attract wealthy and noteworthy individuals from the city.
The abandoned cafe bar was once a bustling hub inside of Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel in Liberty, New York. It shot to fame in 1952 for being the first resort in the world to use artificial snow on its slopes but later closed down in 1986. After several failed attempts by other companies to reopen the hotel, the entire resort was demolished in 2018.
8 Reclaimed by Nature
Diner cars are often a favorite of anyone taking a long train ride. They give passengers a place to stretch their legs, grab a bite, and socialize with other people on the train. So it isn't totally surprising to find that people all over the world have tried to bring the dining car experience to everyone - even if they aren't on a train ride.
Retired railroad and subway cars have been repurposed into many different things, but across Europe and North America, turning them into restaurants has been a popular option. Unfortunately for this abandoned restaurant, nature has started to reclaim the train car.
7 Forgotten American Icons - the classic diner
Diners are an icon. With chrome detailing, flashing neon lights, and colorful stools, they have a look that's distinctly American. When you add in the music blasting from the jukebox, the oversized portions of comfort food, and the chatty waitresses that feel like family to the regulars, it's easy to see why so many people romanticize these places.
They've woven themselves deeply into pop culture, especially in films like Pulp Fiction, American Graffiti, and Grease. But all good things come to an end, and many diners around the country have slowly shut down. Thankfully, there are still plenty left to enjoy a late-night meal at the counter.
6 Unique Spaces Don't Always Equal Success
Location can make or break a business. People searching for their next favorite restaurant want great views, something convenient to get to, and a unique space with lots of character, great food, and friendly service. While many places may not sport all of these features, most successful spots manage to check several of the boxes.
This unique space that once housed a small cafe is proof that a lot of things need to go right to ensure success. Even a great waterfront location wasn't enough to keep a sustainable crowd coming in.
5 A Difficult Business
Running a new restaurant isn't an easy endeavor to take up. A study from Ohio State University has reported that 60% of restaurants do not make it past the first year, and 80% go under within five years. That leaves a very small percentage of establishments that are able to stay open for the long haul, so maybe it shouldn't be all that surprising that we see so many empty spaces where eateries used to be.
As for why so many fail so quickly? "Potential restaurateurs do not realize or appreciate the specific set of demands that come along with owning and running a restaurant. Once realized, it is often way too late," said celebrity chef Robert Irvine.
4 The Collapse of the All You Can Eat Empire - Debbie Wong
Debbie Wong was once a popular small Chinese food chain with several restaurants in the Western Massachusetts area. They were well known for their ornate and traditional Chinese decorations as well as for the excellent food and drinks. But as time passed, the restaurants started closing down one by one.
Several years later, the restaurant resurfaced in a new location but failed to live up to the quality they were known for in the past. While it was quite popular for its all you can eat lunch buffet, Debbie Wong never generated the same kinds of crowds they had in their earlier years and eventually shut down for good.
3 Elegant Echoes of the Past - The Wellington Rooms
Ornate architecture, a fancy bar, and stained glass windows tell the story of the former glory that was once The Wellington Rooms. Built between 1815-1816 and designed by architect Edmund Aikin, the Neo-Classical building was originally used by the high society members of the Wellington Club for parties and balls in Liverpool, England.
More recently, the space served as the Liverpool Irish Center but has been empty since the 1990s and is now in a state of decay. In early 2018, emergency repairs began in an effort to save the historical building. According to the Liverpool Echo, there are plans to turn the space into a Science and Technology Hub.
2 We'll be Back... One Day
Sometimes, the eeriest abandoned buildings are the ones that are left untouched. This bar and grill was once a cozy local watering hole where people would come to grab a drink and catch up with their friends. The unique wall decorations added a kind of character to the place that you just don't find in local chain restaurants.
But the abandoned restaurant has been empty for years, and everything was left behind. Everything from the photos to the table decorations still sits as if someone is supposed to come in and open shop for the day. But the thick layer of dust on the ground and bar tell a different story.
1 A Symbol of a Time Gone By - 'Friendly' Ice Cream
In 1935, the Blake brothers opened their first ice cream shop in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was called Friendly and served ice cream cones for 5 cents during the height of the great depression. Another location was opened soon after, but the brothers were forced to close for the duration of World War II.
The Blakes reopened the stores after the war ended, and the brand slowly expanded across the East Coast of the United States. In its heyday, there were over 500 restaurants serving up the signature happy ending sundaes and comfort food. But in recent years financial trouble has plagued the franchise and locations have rapidly been closing up shop.
Sources: Business Insider. Liverpool Echo, Lavu, USA Today