No segment of the pandemic-battered food service industry seems immune to the financial devastation that has resulted in thousands upon thousands of restaurants nationwide closing their doors permanently.
While a small number of fast food chains, especially those with drive-thru windows and menu items well-suited for delivery, have actually increased sales in recent months — KFC, Pizza Hut, and Wingstop among them — many others have experienced substantial downturns. Reduced sales have plagued even popular standbys like Wendy’s, Chipotle, and Dunkin’, according to a report by Nation’s Restaurant News on major restaurant company performance over the first half of this year.
Full-service chains are hurting, too. The restaurant business data resource Black Box Intelligence reports that 12% of sit-down restaurant chain units that were open before the COVID-19 pandemic are now closed. Such once-thriving chains as California Pizza Kitchen and Chuck E. Cheese have even filed for bankruptcy.
The effect of COVID-19-related restrictions on multi-unit operations over the coming months remains to be seen. How will business be impacted, for instance, at these 21 restaurant and supermarket chains that require customers to wear masks?
The situation is just as bad, if not worse, for independent restaurants — whether modest neighborhood establishments, family favorites with decades of history, or flashy newer places opened by celebrity chefs. In the latter category, such culinary luminaries as Wolfgang Puck, David Chang, Daniel Boulud, José Andrés, and Thomas Keller have all been forced by economic circumstance to shutter restaurants in recent months.
An organization of independent restaurateurs called the Independent Restaurant Coalition has estimated that as many as 85% of the individual restaurants and small restaurant groups around the country might close permanently by the end of 2020. With this in mind, the Coalition is now lobbying Congress to pass a $120 billion bailout bill to help save at least some of the threatened places — an important initiative given that restaurants are definitely among the American brands that might not survive the coronavirus.
Beginning in early May, when it became apparent that government-mandated shutdowns were going to last longer than initially anticipated, 24/7 Tempo has begun tracking permanent restaurant closings around the country. Many thousands of places, chains and independents, have now announced that they will not be reopening even after the pandemic subsides. Iconic establishments in New York state and California — the former particularly hard hit earlier this year, the latter a more recent virus hotspots — have proven particularly vulnerable.
While the demise of any restaurant is unfortunate, of course — for its owners, investors, staff, and customers alike — some closings resonate more than others. It’s safe to say that the more popular a restaurant was, the more its disappearance will be felt. This list, covering permanently closed establishments in some 17 states and the District of Columbia, focuses on those of particular fame and/or value to their community. All will be greatly missed.