Defunct Fast Food Chains
Flickr:Don Sniegowski

10 Fast Food Restaurants That Only Survive In Our Memories


From Gino's Hamburgers and Wimpy to Kenny Rogers Roasters, Americans have seen their fair share of defunct fast-food chains. Today we decided to gather up some of our favorite fast food restaurant chains that are no longer around.

Most of these restaurants had their heyday in the 50-60s when fast food was becoming increasingly popular across the nation. However, most of them couldn't keep up with the fast-paced food trends and got left behind. Others, such as White Tower and Minnie Pearl's Chicken were shut down due to poor business decisions. In the case of Burger Chef,  the fast food joint didn't have enough power (both in money and politics) to take over the industry giant and ultimately folded.

10 Defunct Fast Food Chains That Are No Longer Around

Howard Johnson's

Exterior Of Howard Johnson'S Restaurant

Exterior view of Howard Johnson's Soda Fountain and Restaurant. Undated photo circa 1940.

Known as HoJo's, Howard Johnson's signature orange roof was once a welcome sight during those long car rides with the whole family. With more than 1,000 restaurants at its peak, Howard Johnson's served "more meals outside of the home than any entity in America, except for the U.S. Army," according to Eater.

While their fried clams, chicken, hot dogs, and ice cream were popular, HoJo's never updated its menu to keep up with the tastes of the future. The low cost of flying also influenced more people to fly and shy away from the family road trip, a crowd they heavily relied on. Shortly after, restaurant chains like Applebee's and Chili's popped up, sealing their fate.

Burger Chef


Opened in 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Burger Chef gained fame as the inventor of the kiddie meal. The 'Funmeal' came with a burger, dessert, and a toy. It even secured the licensing rights to Star Wars and included posters of the movie.

A few years later the chain closed down and McDonald's started selling Happy Meals. Burger Chef sued and got nothing. Later, the chain got sold to Hardee's fast-food restaurant.

Steak and Ale

Founded in Dallas, Texas in 1966, Steak and Ale brought the upscale American steak house to the masses. Its signature herb-roasted prime rib and New York strip were favorite main dishes. Guests could grab a plate and top their plates with the unlimited salad bar or a choice of soup. When sales started to sag, the chain offered lunch menu items for only $6.99

In 2008, the chain filed for bankruptcy, and the parent company of Bennigan's bought the brand.

White Tower

Sound familiar? Opened as an imitator to White Castle, White Tower Hamburgers was founded in 1926 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Successfully, the chain populated the Midwest and East Coast where it sold burgers for only a nickel.

The White Castle Fast food chain didn't like how White Tower was infringing on their business and sued them, forcing them to pay a royalty fee. Only one White Tower still stands in Toledo, Ohio.

Red Barn

Red Barn Burger

A former Red Barn location at 1725 Dundas Wikimedia Commons

Founded in Springfield, Ohio in 1961, Red Barn was named after the shape of its chain restaurant buildings. They were actually barns!

Before the McDonald's Big Mac came along, the Red Barn burger chain served up a burger known as the "Big Barney". They also were the first burger joint to offer a self-service salad bar.

Eventually, the chain shut down in the 1980s after franchise licenses were allowed to expire.

Minnie Pearl's Chicken

minnie pearl

Restaurant Rewind via YouTube

Rival to KFC and other fried chicken joints, Minnie Pearl's Chicken was inspired by Grand Ole Opry comedienne Minnie Pearl (aka Sarah Ophelia Colley). After initial reports in the late 1960s of a public stock worth $64 Million, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the restaurants.

The Kentucky Fried Chicken rival collapsed among allegations of accounting irregularities and stock price manipulation.

Henry's Hamburgers



Founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1954, Henry's Hamburgers was a branch of Bresler's Ice Cream Company to promote sales of ice cream milkshakes and malts.

By the 1960s there were 200 locations across the nation. Then soon after in the 1970s, the chain saw a decline. Unlike Burger King, Wendy's, and McDonald's, Henry's Hamburgers failed to add a drive-thru or drive-in feature. The only remaining Henry's is in Benton Harbor, Michigan.


A pancake house that got its start on the West Coast, Sambo's was named after founders Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett. Quickly the brand found itself associated with The Story of Little Black Sambo, a children's book about a South Indian boy who lives with his parents Black Jumbo and Black Mumbo.

The restaurant embraced the story, adding illustrations from the book on the restaurant walls.

In the late 1970s controversy arose when the chain started to expand over the United States. The name was deemed insensitive and led to the demise of the chain. One restaurant still stands in Santa Barbara, California.


Founded in 1975 in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota by restaurateur Marno McDermott and former Green Bay Packers Max McGee, Chi-Chi's was known for its delicious Mexican food.

In 2003 the company filed for bankruptcy. A month later the chain was hit with the biggest outbreak of hepatitis A in U.S. history. Four people died and 660 caught the illness. In 2004 Chi-Chi's closed all of its American locations.

Pup 'N' Taco


Opened in 1956 as a California drive-in restaurant that served tacos, hot dogs, and pastrami sandwiches, Pup 'n' Taco was a one-stop shop for all your favorites. Johnny Carson loved the place and it was even mentioned in the Chevy Chase movie, Fletch.

By 1972 there were 50 locations across California, however in 1984, almost 100 locations were bought by Taco Bell due to their prime real estate and ended the chain. Three stores still stand in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

READ MORE: Chick-Fil-A Has the Best Keto Breakfast According to Our Food Editor

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