24 fast-food and restaurant chains you might see less of in 2021

Friendly’s just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid the pandemic. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Multiple fast-food chains have seen closures over the past few years, and some are facing even more due to the coronavirus.
  • Friendly’s just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid the pandemic and declining sales over the past two years.
  • IHOP recently announced that around 100 locations are expected to close in the next six months, while Steak ‘n Shake announced in May that it’s permanently closing 51 restaurants.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Though many fast-food and restaurant chains were already facing closures before the coronavirus hit, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on the industry.

Steak ‘n Shake, established over 80 years ago, has announced it’s shuttering more than 50 branches. Some restaurants, such as Ruby Tuesday, relied on diners eating meals in their establishments, so they have had to make the sudden switch to delivery and takeout — without much success.

Take a look at all the fast-food and restaurant chains you’ll likely be seeing less of in 2021.

Applebee’s recently completed a plan to close over 200 underperforming locations, and 15 more branches are expected to close by the end of the year.

Applebee’s. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Applebee’s plans to increase delivery and takeout options, which are already boosting sales, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Burger King announced in August 2020 that “several hundred” locations are expected to close.

Burger King. Damian Dovarganes/AP

Burger King reported plans to close up to 250 restaurants in 2019, with closures coming into effect this year and over the next few years. According to Restaurant Business, “Burger King executives said the company plans to close 200 to 250 low-volume locations per year over the next couple of years.”

On May 12, MassLive reported that a Burger King in Springfield, Massachusetts, closed its doors after 46 years in business.

Boston Market closed 45 locations in 2019.

Boston Market. Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

The fast-casual dining chain has faced financial trouble since as far back as 1998, when it filed for bankruptcy. It has also seen declining sales in recent years. According to Mashed, Boston Market’s then CEO, Frances Allen, said last year that the closures were necessary in order for the company to have a shot at surviving in the long-term.

Brio Italian Mediterranean and Bravo! Italian Cucina closed 71 locations for good in April.

Bravo! Italian Cucina. Shutterstock

FoodFirst Global Restaurants is the parent company of Brio and Bravo!, and announced that it would be closing 71 of its 92 restaurants.

CEO Steve Layt said in a statement, “The COVID-19 outbreak truly could not have come at a worse time for our business. The mandated dining room closure orders wiped out 60% of our restaurants within days and since then we have experienced nothing short of devastating sales declines.”

Denny’s announced it would be permanently closing 15 locations in New York and one corporate location.

Denny’s. Shutterstock

The closures were related to “unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19,” according to WARN notices filed by a Denny’s franchisee.

Business Insider reported that earlier in May, Denny’s executives said they would not be surprised if more franchisees requested to close restaurants permanently, but that the chain is “not at the point right now.”

Dunkin’ announced in July that it may close around 800 locations by the end of the year, including all 450 stores located in Speedway gas stations.

A Dunkin’ worker hands a coffee out of a drive-thru window. Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

“We are assessing our real estate portfolio and working with our franchisees to permanently close off-strategy, low volume sales locations,” a Dunkin’ representative told Newsweek.

“Earlier this year that we expected to close 450 Speedway self-serve kiosk locations during fiscal 2020, representing less than 0.5 per cent of system-wide sales … Including the 450 Speedway closures, we believe there could be approximately 800 low-volume locations, primarily alternative points of distribution, that may close,” the statement continued.

Friendly’s just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid the pandemic and a 25% decline in its restaurants in the past two years.

Friendly’s. AP Images

In April, the chain announced it would be closing 23 of its restaurants in the Northeast. A spokesperson told Mashed that the closures were due to “shifting consumer demographics.” On February 9, 2020, a Friendly’s in Rochester, New Hampshire, closed. It was the last one in the Seacoast Region.

On November 2, 2020, it was simultaneously announced that Friendly’s had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and had been purchased by the parent company of Red Mango and Smoothie Factory.

“Unfortunately, like many restaurant businesses, our progress was suddenly interrupted by the catastrophic impact of COVID-19,” Friendly’s CEO George Michel said in a statement.

Hamburger chain Fuddruckers was in trouble before the pandemic but is now looking to liquidate all of its restaurants.

Fuddruckers. Shutterstock

At the start of last year, there were 57 Fuddruckers nationwide, which soon trickled down to just 31. Now, the chain, which first opened in 1980 as Freddie Fuddrucker’s, is looking for a buyer for all of its locations.

Around 100 IHOP locations are expected to close in the next six months.

IHOP restaurant. James R. Martin/Shutterstock

During the third quarter, 16 IHOPs closed.

“While IHOP anticipates closing just under 100 of our underperforming restaurants in the next six months, we are optimistic about the continued improvement in sales numbers and are continuing to see improvement in our off-premise business, which has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic,” a Dine Brands spokesperson said in a statement to Restaurant Business.

Le Pain Quotidien closing around 60 of its 98 restaurants after filing for bankruptcy.

Le Pain Quotidien. Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

In May, Belgian bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien agreed to sell its US assets to Aurify Brands for $US3 million through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. Aurify plans to re-open at least 35 locations.

In September, Luby’s announced plans to dissolve the business and sell its remaining 77 locations.

Luby’s. Shutterstock

In March, Houston-based chain Luby’s temporarily closed 35 restaurants as a result of the pandemic. Now, the chain is looking to liquidate.

In July 2019, Luby’s, which also owns Fuddruckers and Cheeseburger in Paradise, closed several restaurants to try and pay off debt, according to Mashed. Months later, in November 2019, CEO Chris Pappas said, “We are not pleased with our shareholder value, same-store sales, guest traffic results, or corporate overhead.”

McDonald’s announced in late July it plans to shutter around 200 restaurants.

McDonald’s in New York City’s financial district. Irene Jiang / Business Insider

According to a previous article by Business Insider, McDonald’s announced in an earnings call that it planned to close around 200 restaurants, around half of which are located in Walmart stores.

However, the company plans to open 950 new restaurants by the end of the year, 400 of which will be in China.

Perkins filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and 2019, and it has already closed two branches in 2020.

Perkins. Shutterstock

According to Mashed, Perkins split with its partner, Marie Callender’s Inc., in 2019. It is now partnered with Huddle House, another fast-casual restaurant chain.

A few P.F. Chang’s have closed for good since the pandemic struck.

P.F. Chang’s. PF Chang’s

On April 8, a branch in Westbury, New York, permanently closed and laid off 118 workers. Then, on May 14, a P.F. Chang’s in Friendship Heights, Maryland, shut its doors for good. It was the last one in Montgomery County.

Pizza Hut announced in August 2020 that the chain planned to close up to 300 locations.

Pizza Hut. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Pizza Hut announced in 2019 that it will be closing over 500 underperforming restaurants in a two-year period though, judging by the recent news, it could end up being more.

In August 2019, David W. Gibbs, then president and chief operating and financial officer of Yum! Brands, which operates Pizza Hut, told Nation’s Restaurant News,“Our US store count could drop to as low as 7,000 locations over the next 24 months primarily driven by closures of underperforming dine-in restaurants before rebounding to current levels and above in the future.”

As of November 2, 2020, there are around 6,700 Pizza Hut locations.

In 2019, Red Robin closed 10 underperforming restaurants. It recently temporarily closed 35 locations, cut 35 headquarter jobs, and reduced salaries.

Red Robin. Shutterstock

According to MoneyWise, Red Robin said its 2019 closures were due to the decline of America’s malls; seven of the 10 closed locations were in malls.

According to Restaurant Business, Red Robin’s same-store sales fell 65.2% for the week that ended April 12, 2020.

In October, Ruby Tuesday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and officially announced it would be closing 185 restaurants.

Ruby Tuesday. Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ruby Tuesday shut down 26 locations in 2019 and has closed even more in 2020. According to a report by Business Insider, as of July, Ruby Tuesday had shut down around 150 locations over the course of the year. The chain has struggled to connect with younger customers and keep up with the industry’s pivot to delivery and curbside options.

Starbucks recently announced it is closing 500 locations as it expands its pickup options.

Starbucks. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

According to Restaurant Business, in June, the coffee chain originally planned to permanently close 400 stores in the United States and Canada over the next 18 months. Then, in October, the company announced it would close an additional 100 locations as begins to “shift away from poorer performing urban markets.”

However, while some locations are closing, Starbucks plans to open up to 300 pick-up and carryout locations instead.

Steak ‘n Shake announced in May it is closing 57 branches.

Steak ‘n Shake AP

As Business Insider’s Irene Jiang previously reported, “The burger chain has been struggling for the last several years, ‘temporarily’ closing over a hundred locations and haemorrhaging millions of dollars as sales plummet.”

In 2019, Subway closed over 1,000 stores nationwide, and it has announced more closures in 2020.

Subway. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Subway closed more stores than it opened in 2016, and it closed more than 900 stores in 2017. Some have estimated the chain will be closing a similar number of branches as it did in 2019 by the end of 2020.

Salad chain Sweet Tomatoes announced it would be permanently closing all 97 of its locations nationwide due to the coronavirus.

Sweet Tomatoes. Shutterstock

John Haywood, CEO of Garden Fresh, the parent company of Sweet Tomatoes and its sister buffet chain Souplantation, told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets. The regulations are understandable, but unfortunately, it makes it very difficult to reopen. And I’m not sure the health departments are ever going to allow it.”

Taco Bell closed more than half a dozen restaurants this year, including the only one in Kodiak, Alaska.

Taco Bell. Shutterstock

Though the closures won’t amount to much, as there are still 7,116 Taco Bell locations in the United States, residents of Kodiak, Alaska, will no longer be seeing the taco chain near their homes.

Texas’ Taco Cabana closed 19 of its 164 restaurants in January 2020.

Taco Cabana. Shutterstock

According to NBC, the company said that the 19 restaurants were underperforming and that they had $US4.2 million in pre-tax operating losses.

TGI Fridays announced it will be permanently closing up to 20% of its restaurants.

TGI Fridays. John Lamparski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Bloomberg reported in May 2020 that Chief Executive Officer Ray Blanchette said that up to 20% of their 386 restaurants will have to close as the chain struggles to draw customers amid the pandemic.