These days, your fast-food choices are generally limited to a handful of major chains – McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell – or the odd independent restaurant. But back in the mid-20th century, when those names were just starting to take off, there were plenty of other businesses attempting to cash in on the franchise craze. From Red Barn to Chi-Chi’s, however, these once-famous chains all eventually capitulated for one reason or another – whether it was simply a poor business model or even an unfortunate viral outbreak.
20. Howard Johnson’s
Back in the 1920s, Howard Johnson’s was something of a pioneer for plenty of now common fast-food concepts, such as standardization, comfort food and even roadside locations. But as it paved the way for McDonald’s and KFC, those franchises’ focus on smaller menus and lower costs allowed them to offer a cheaper dining experience. And Howard Johnson’s ultimately paid the price, selling off and shutting down almost all its restaurants in the ’90s.
19. The Official All-Star Café
With themed restaurants all the rage in the early ’90s, including his own Planet Hollywood venture, businessman Robert Earl reckoned that a sports-themed restaurant would surely meet the same success. And with backing from athletes including Tiger Woods and Shaquille O’Neal, The Official All-Star Café opened in Times Square in 1995. But it didn’t last long – in four years, revenues tumbled, with sports proving not quite as family friendly as movies.