Restaurants That Used to Be Cool But Aren’t Anymore


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Approximately 60% of new restaurants close within their first year, while 80% don’t reach their fifth anniversary. This shows that the restaurant business can be brutal, and failure may be more common than success. That being the case, it’s remarkable when a restaurant stays in business and thrives well enough to become a national chain.


Sadly, many beloved national chains have lost favor with the American dining public. Whether their concepts fell out of fashion, their menus needed a revamp, or Covid-19 hobbled them irreparably, some once-beloved restaurant chains are now falling out of favor with consumers. Here’s our list of the ones that used to be staples but are now having difficulty retaining their former glory.

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1. Olive Garden

Olive Garden is still operating and serving breadsticks and pasta all over America. Unfortunately, their motto, “When you’re here, you’re family,” recalls no family member as much as the one who believes the secret to great Italian food is adding lots and lots of salt. That said, people are still eating there, as demonstrated by the fact that its total sales in 2023 reached almost $5 billion. “Cool” may be in the eye of the beholder, but it’s hard to argue with five billion frogskins.

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2. Red Lobster

For a long time, those craving cuisine that recalled salty sea air would make haste to their nearest Red Lobster, which serves all kinds of seafood dishes. The restaurant ran into some trouble in 2016 when it was reported that its lobster bisque used only a little lobster and mixed it with langoustine, a much less expensive crustacean that’s closer to a bottom-feeding prawn than a lobster. While it would be inaccurate to say that the public abandoned Red Lobster after this scandal, it’s no longer the go-to destination for anyone with a powerful craving for snow crab legs.

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3. TGI Fridays

TGI Fridays built its reputation on two things – happy hour deals and kitschy décor. This kept it in great stead for after-work crowds who wanted a drink or three to drown their employment-related sorrows. Still, it became a victim of its own success when similar chains started cropping up that offered diners a similar experience. It also didn’t help that it was mercilessly parodied in the 1999 movie “Office Space” as “Chotchkie’s,” the restaurant chain that requires Jennifer Aniston’s waitress character to wear more flair.

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4. The Cheesecake Factory

Famous for its extensive menu and decadent desserts, the Cheesecake Factory has lost some of its luster over the years. One thing that didn’t help was in 2020 when the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges against the restaurant for misleading investors during the COVID-19 pandemic and its financial impact. Not cool!

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5. Planet Hollywood

Once a celebrity hotspot, Planet Hollywood has joined the ranks of the B-list, or possibly the C-list. A themed restaurant chain launched in 1991 with the financial backing of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis, it had its heyday when those actors commanded multi-million-dollar salaries for their movie appearances. But as those actors’ stars faded, so did the restaurant’s allure.

Image Credit: Planet Hollywood by Jason Mrachina (CC BY-NC-ND).

6. Fuddruckers

Famous for its burgers, the Fuddruckers chain famously grinds all of its hamburger meat and bakes all of its hamburger buns on the premises. In 2020, its owner, Luby’s, announced a plan to liquidate its assets, which led to Black Titan Franchise Systems acquiring it in 2021. That may sound a bit messy and chaotic, but don’t worry – if the 2005 movie “Idiocracy” is anything to go by, the restaurant will still exist in 500 years, albeit with a slightly modified name.

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7. Hard Rock Cafe

The Hard Rock Cafe was founded in London in 1971 and opened in the United States in 1982, a time when eating food under Eric Clapton’s autographed guitar was enough of a reason to brave the very average food. Unfortunately, just as Americans’ fondness for hard rock music has faded with the years, so has the establishment that shares its name. The restaurant also got into a bit of a pickle during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine for not fully withdrawing from the Russian market. However, a Yale University study now says it has closed all its locations there, so at least there’s that.

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8. Chili’s

Chili’s is famous for its baby back ribs, and it made quite a splash in popular culture for a while there. It was featured on the television comedy “The Office” and in the movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” More recently, its public image has taken a hit thanks to some unwelcome publicity in 2018 when Brinker International, which owns Chili’s, had its data network breached, exposing its customers’ personal information and leading to a lawsuit, and some people don’t want to eat food at the same restaurant that errantly compromised their credit card information.

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9. Denny’s

Hating on Denny’s is difficult, and there are two reasons for that. For one, it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unless a pandemic’s social distancing requirements interfere with that. For another, you can get breakfast all day, even at dinnertime, as the maker intended. Between the fiscal years 2017 and 2019, the company closed over 100 franchised units, and while that’s not a disaster for a company with over 1,600 of them, stockholders never like to see that arrow pointing down on the charts and graphs.

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10. Hooters

Hooters opened in 1983 and was based around a simple concept. A very simple concept. It dictated that men would keep showing up as long as those chicken wings, cheese fries, and Buds were being served to you by a woman under 25 years old in an outfit that enhanced her chest area. And they did! The #MeToo movement threw some cold water on the concept, with a 2018 article in GQ asking, “Is There a Place for Hooters in 2018?” The question may have been answered in 2021 when the chain reported a year-over-year sales change of -29.5% (that’s bad).

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