Restaurant franchises have become a significant part of American consumer culture in the last several decades. Chains like Outback, Friday’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Red Robin, and others dominate highway and mall locations. However, seemingly for every success story, there are countless failed chains. Some reached great heights before plummeting down to earth, while other now-defunct restaurant chains could never truly get off the ground. Please pull up a seat, open the menu, and let’s look at some iconic restaurant chains you might not even remember, as well as some that you still might cruise by on your next road trip.
Howard Johnson’s company launched in the 1920s and grew along with American car culture. By the 1960s, over 1,000 of the restaurant/hotel chain’s distinctive orange roofs dotted American highways. However, within a few scant decades, they disappeared. The hotel portion of the business was sold off — still existing in the name — but with none of the classic HoJo design elements. Meanwhile, the restaurants died a slow death. As of 2017, there is only one Howard Johnson still in business.
Kenny Rogers’ Roasters
Country singer Kenny Rogers teamed with business partner John Y. Brown to launch this chicken chain in 1990. While the food was popular, they were never able to break into the market and the restaurants were sold off to Nathan’s in 1998. However, the chain was immortalized in a classic episode of the sitcom Seinfeld.