Fast Food Chains That Went Extinct Without You Noticing
McDonald’s and Wendy’s and Arby’s, oh my! It seems like there’s no shortage of fast food chains out there. Each one provides something slightly different, and everyone has their preference. Despite a few that aren’t available nationwide (we’re talking about you, In-N-Out!), these chains are everywhere. And the fact that so many of them have huge fanbases in America means that they’re all doing fairly well — right?
As it turns out, there are multiple canceled fast food chains. Some seemed to go overnight. Moreover, just because a chain has a ton of locations doesn’t mean it’s doing well financially. Some of these restaurants are quite dated, but others went extinct in the not-so-distant past.
It’s heartbreaking when a restaurant loses a menu item, and it’s even worse when the restaurant leaves the world altogether. We still hold these canceled fast food chains in an important part of our heart, though. Here are 16 of them that are gone but not forgotten.
1. Kenny Roger’s Roasters
If you’re a fan of Seinfeld, you may remember Kenny Roger’s Roasters.
Technically, this fast food restaurant is still hanging on, but not in the United States. The company managed to find some success in Asia, so fans will have to travel pretty far to find it. Tedium reports that a Malaysian firm bought the Kenny Rogers trademarks back in 2008. The Ontario Mills Mall in California held the last open location, but it has since closed down.
2. Burger Chef
Did you know that McDonald’s used to have a competitor that wasn’t Burger King or Wendy’s?
Burger Chef deserves credit for creating the Happy Meal (or as they called it, the Fun Meal) way before McDonald’s. So, what happened? Supposedly the company expanded way too quickly. Also, the fact that four employees from an Indianapolis location were kidnapped and fatally attacked didn’t help with good press.
3. The All American Burger
If you’ve seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High, this chain will probably sound familiar.
Since its name is so common, it’s somewhat challenging to figure out the history behind The All American Burger chain. It was founded in the ’60s by a guy named Aaron Binder. He opened up locations throughout Los Angeles, CA. The chain reportedly filed for bankruptcy, and one of the last known locations operates as a Chipotle.
4. Howard Johnson’s
Real fans referred to Howard Johnson’s as HoJo.
There were multiple HoJo locations. Now, only one still exists. It’s located in Lake George, and even that restaurant may not be around for much longer. Authorities detained the restaurant manager after he allegedly sexually harassed his staff members in 2017. We’re not sure if customers still frequent the location.
5. Pioneer Chicken
If you thought KFC and Popeye’s were the only popular chicken chains around, you’d be wrong.
Pioneer Chicken actually employed O.J. Simpson as a spokesperson at one point. But, the fast food chain’s downfall happened way before the former football player went to trial. Pioneer Chicken reportedly filed for bankruptcy in 1988. Their 270 locations dwindled down to only two, and both are located in California. So, consider yourself lucky if you’re on the West Coast.
Bennigans was technically a sit-down restaurant.
But the company still experienced major loss. How did things go wrong? The business simply did not turn much of a profit. In fact, the Bennigans franchise filed for bankruptcy in 2008 along with Steak & Ale, which was a slightly more upscale eatery. A few franchise-run Bennigans still exist, but they definitely don’t have the presence they used to.
7. Mighty Casey’s
Atlanta is the original home of Mighty Casey’s.
The good news is that the restaurants didn’t have the worst kinds of issues — they were just bought out. A chain called Krystal took over many of the locations. They’re still pretty successful, with 360 locations. If you’ve never been, most people compare Krystal burgers to White Castle ones. They’re small but incredibly delicious.
8. Red Barn
Red Barn originated back in 1961, and they closed their doors in 1988.
Red Barn chains were popular in New York for serving up burgers with names like the “Big Barney” and the “Barnbuster.” They also sold chicken. The Buffalo News even went so far to say that Red Barn was the most successful small chain restaurant in all of Buffalo, NY. Accordingly, the chain’s cancellation was a pretty big deal.
9. White Tower
What better way to complete with White Castle than to create a White Tower?
White Tower Hamburgers seemed to draw a lot of inspiration from White Castle. Consequently, the original burger joint sued the imitator, forcing White Tower to change their logos and decor. The chain got to keep its name, however. While White Castle is still going strong with multiple locations, though, White Tower called it quits in 2004.
Technically, Chi-Chi’s is still operating, but the chain left America and Canada back in 2004.
The company went bankrupt after some bad press — but, rightfully so. Four people died and over 600 became ill after eating at the chain. Apparently, Chi-Chi’s sold green onions tainted with hepatitis A. Nobody should have to lose their life over a fast food safety issue. We’re curious if people overseas know about the contamination issue.
11. All Star Café
Not like America really needed another gimmicky restaurant anyway, right?
The brains behind Planet Hollywood enlisted the help of several celebrity athletes to help promote this theme restaurant back in 1995. And the All Star Café had locations in many notable cities. But after the parent company went bankrupt, all of the All Star Cafés started slowly closing locations. The last one shut its doors in 2007.
Remember the famous line, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”?
That was the Wimpy’s catchphrase. The Indiana-born chain started in 1934. But it failed to remain successful in the United States as the decades progressed. Interestingly, though, the Wimpy’s chain still exists in the United Kingdom, and it is incredibly popular in South Africa. So if you’re looking to try a Wimpy burger, you know where you need to go.
Okay, so they’re not officially extinct — but most locations shut down in recent years.
The company just isn’t doing well, and Quiznos locations in America are incredibly hard to find. The New Madisonian actually referred to Quiznos as one of the “biggest restaurant failure stories of the 21st Century.” And no fast food chain is vying for that title. Some franchise Quiznos locations still exist. We wish them the best, but Subway seems to have the sandwich market on lock.
Lum’s rushed into the fast food scene in the ’50s.
But it couldn’t last for the long haul. People knew and loved the small fast food chain for its legendary beer-steamed hot dogs. And over time, 273 different locations existed. Most of them closed, however, when the Lum’s company filed for bankruptcy. Only one Lum’s lasted throughout the 2000s, and it was located in Bellevue, NE. Unfortunately, the chain sold its last hot dog in 2017.
15. Yankee Doodle Dandy
At one point, there were 27 Yankee Doodle Dandy locations in the United States.
The chain had an American theme and used the colors of red, white, and blue in the decor. Yankee Doodle Dandy famously served up burgers but closed up shop in the 1980s. People still think of the restaurants fondly, as they were a big part in many childhoods and offered up tastes that other chains didn’t.
16. Beefsteak Charlie’s
Beefsteak Charlie’s had up to 60 locations but ended up closing in the mid-1980s.
The restaurant was all about steak and shrimp. And commercials featuring the Beefsteak Charlie mascot made it seem like he’d personally go to your table and shove free food at you. The chain reportedly also served a ton of booze for the adults. Two locations in New York City, NY, held on for some time, but they shut down in 2001.