Fast food and chain restaurants shut down for all sorts of reasons, but mainly steep competition, higher rent, or who could forget about the raging global pandemic. While many dining establishments faced closures before COVID-19 hit, the pandemic has had a devastating effect on the industry.
Steak ‘n Shake, established over 80 years ago, recently announced it’s shuttering 51 branches. Some restaurants, such as Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday, relied on diners eating meals in their establishments, so they’ve had to make the sudden switch to delivery and takeout. Here are some of the fast food and restaurant chains that are downsizing in 2020.
Subway isn’t quite hitting the mark with its health-conscious consumers, despite its “Eat Fresh” slogan. In 2016, the sandwich chain closed 359 locations, far more than it opened. It shut down an additional 866 shops as it continued to struggle in 2017. That jumped to more than 1,100 in 2018, and nearly the same amount of stores closed last year.
Subway still has around 21,3000 restaurants in the US and thousands of international locations, according to the company website. Its efforts to bring back customers include more comfortable seating and kiosk ordering.
2. Pizza Hut
The experience of having a meal at Pizza Hut will soon be nothing but a memory because the chain is getting out of the dine-in restaurant business. Like Domino’s and Papa John’s, it’s becoming a strictly carryout and delivery pizza chain.
As part of the transition, the number of Pizza Hut locations would fall from around 7,450 to about 7,000, executives told analysts on an August 2019 conference call. It will be closing over 500 underperforming restaurants over a two-year period.
3. Burger King
Burger King, otherwise known as “The Home of the Whopper,” has been home less whoppers recently, closing at least 100 restaurants per year. More than double that number, around 250 to be exact, were set to close in 2019. Two more have closed so far in 2020, perhaps on track to have a more predictable cutback this year compared to other fast food outlets.
To make way for the “Burger King of Tomorrow,” Burger King has put some lagging locations on the chopping block. The company is enhancing remaining location with technology such as self-order kiosks inside and digital menu boards at the drive-thru.
Your local Starbucks may have disappeared in the last year or so — but there are still close to 30,000 other locations worldwide to choose from. The coffee titan planned to close 150 of its shops in 2019. Most were in large cities that have numerous Starbucks locations.
The stores being targeted were performing poorly, which was unacceptable to CEO Kevin Johnson. Johnson wants Starbucks to do a better job of anticipating the ever-changing needs and preferences of its customers. The company is promoting its app to boost sales and focusing efforts on healthier.
Admitting that the neighborhood grill is a little behind the times, Applebee’s owner Dine Brands has been doing a lot of pruning. In 2018, the number of Applebee’s locations dropped from 1,936 to 1,846, and the plan was to close another 20 in both 2019 and 2020.
The idea is to fine-tune the existing Applebee’s rather than kill it entirely. There will be a greater focus on takeout and delivery services, as well as off-premises catering. The leadership also is thinking of including more ethnic food choices and healthier menu items.
6. TGI Fridays
TGI Fridays, along with other older sit-down restaurant chains, are being squeezed by America’s generational and economic divides. Despite retooling its menu and trying to return to its singles-bar roots, its efforts last year were futile. Sales plunged, so the company is scaling back.
In 2019, 34 company-owned and franchise restaurants had their very last “last call,” and at least another four have either closed or will be shutting down in 2020, including the only location in Rhode Island.
Despite customers raving about their buttermilk pancakes, Perkins faced a tall stack of financial trouble by the 2010s. It filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and again in 2019.
The chain’s most recent round of closures took place in January 2020 in Waterloo, Iowa and Johnson City, Tennessee. Perkins’ website says there are currently 317 locations in 32 states and Canada, which suggests more than 30 have closed since the start of 2019.
8. Boston Market
Last year, Boston Market closed more than 450 rotisserie chicken restaurants, about ten percent of its location — including the last two in Boston, the chain’s namesake city. In 2020, five more have closed in Kansas, New Jersey and other states.
Boston Market filed for bankruptcy in 1998, and two years later the company got taken over by McDonald’s. The fast-food giant later sold the chicken chain in 2007.