- The last decade has seen a lot of changes, not least of which was the shift in consumers’ tastes in food.
- Healthy foods, conscious sourcing, speedy service, and delivery have become industry-defining trends.
- In the last decade, many chains have struggled to keep up with these changing tastes. Here are 9 restaurant chains that lost relevance or closed completely in the last decade.
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The way that Americans eat has shifted drastically in the last decade.
Diners are increasingly gravitating towards convenience in the form of fast-casual chains and delivery. Food has to be fresher, healthier, and more sustainably sourced than ever before.
But in this new wave of food where delivery, variety, and eco-friendliness matter most, some chains haven’t been able to keep up with the fastest and the freshest.
These nine chains were once wildly popular but have faded from favour or even shuttered completely in the last decade.
Old Country Buffet
Back in its golden day in the early 2000s, Old Country Buffet had hundreds of restaurants across America. Then, the 2008 financial crisis happened and the chain filed for its first bankruptcy. Over the course of the next decade, Old Country Buffet would file for bankruptcy two more times and weather a four-year legal battle with a customer who experienced symptoms of salmonella poisoning after eating at a location in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Now, there are just 18 Old Country Buffet locations remaining.
As far as ’90s relics go, Rainforest Cafe is especially notable for how little it seems to have changed with time. The jungle-themed, animatronic-filled theme restaurant has struggled since the early 2000s, attempting an international expansion that mostly didn’t stick and maxing out at 32 domestic restaurants. Now, there are only 19 US locations left, according to the chain’s website.
Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill
Bikinis trademarked the term “breastaurant” in 2012. Also in 2012, Bikinis founder and CEO Doug Guller bought a Texas ghost town on Craigslist with plans to rename it “Bikini.” Then in 2014, Guller appeared on “Undercover Boss,” where he fired a waitress for wearing a t-shirt instead of a bikini, and gifted a waitress with breast implants. The last Bikinis restaurant closed in 2018.
ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen
Chipotle had some hard times in the 2010s, with repeated food poisoning outbreaks starting in 2015. The biggest casualty of the company’s struggles: its Southeast Asian venture, ShopHouse Asian Kitchen. Just as Steve Ells Chipotle-ized the burrito, so he tried to Chipotle-ize Southeast Asian food after a two-week trip through the region. As writer Nadia Arumugam pointed out in a Forbes article, “Southeast Asian” isn’t a unified cuisine that can be replicated or riffed on simply by combining ingredients at random. Eventually, Chipotle shut down all 15 ShopHouse locations for good.
Steak ‘n Shake
Founded in 1934 in Normal, Illinois, Steak ‘n Shake was originally a counter service spot for fresh-ground burgers. Over the course of the 20th century, the hamburger stand became a sit-down casual restaurant chain. Then in 2012, the chain switched back to a quick-service focus and pushed into franchising. But despite its best efforts, the chain has spent the last three years in the red, according to QSR magazine. Now, 103 Steak ‘n Shakes have temporarily closed across the country.
Planet Hollywood has been trying to climb its way back to the top since the 1990s, when an ambitious expansion plan resulted in an infamous bust. But the last decade hasn’t been kind to theme restaurants, and Planet Hollywood is no exception. Now with just six restaurant locations in the world, the struggling brand is trying to reinvent itself as a luxury resort chain.
Founded in 1948 by – you guessed it – Bob Evans, Bob Evans is a farmhouse-themed Midwestern chain much like Cracker Barrel. Attempts to get in on delivery and retail weren’t enough to mitigate food poisoning scandals and lawsuits throughout the last decade. After closing 27 restaurants in 2016, Bob Evans’ parent company sold the chain to private-equity group Golden Gate Capital to focus on frozen grocery goods.
Texas comfort food cafeteria chain Luby’s was once a major part of the Lone Star State’s heritage, and perhaps it still is. But these days, Luby’s has shifted from restaurants to retirement homes, offices, and hospitals. A years-long sales slide has dimmed the chain’s glow, and the parent company announced in September 2019 that it was looking for a buyer.