14 Chain Restaurants We Genuinely Miss

There are some restaurants you just wish you could go back to one more time.

woman eating meatless burger in restaurant
Updated June 6, 2024
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There was always that restaurant you loved to go to as a kid or that stop at the food court you had to make when you were out with your friends — that one place you knew you could count on so you could avoid wasting money on a meal you didn’t love.

Some of your favorite places to get food and drinks may be long gone, but you haven’t forgotten them.

Check out this list of beloved chain restaurants that are gone and see if you remember these spots.

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Bennigan’s

Studio Romantic/Adobe male friends enjoying burger with beer

Bennigan’s was an Irish pub-themed restaurant that was known for burgers, nachos, and other pub food.

The restaurant didn’t keep up with changing times and lost customers, leading to Bennigan’s shutting down most of its locations in the 2000s.

There are still 10 Bennigan’s locations in the U.S. and 15 international spots if you’re feeling nostalgic.

Planet Hollywood

JHVEPhoto/Adobe Planet Hollywood restaurant orlando florida

Planet Hollywood was the movie version of a Hard Rock Cafe with plenty of movie memorabilia — which made sense considering the chain was backed by Hollywood elite like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Demi Moore.

There are only a few restaurants left, but its footprint is much smaller than during its heyday in the 1990s.

ESPN Zone

wolterke/Adobe ESPN Zone sign board outside building

Combine sports, games, and food in one spot, and that was an ESPN Zone with nine restaurants including locations in Disneyland and New York City’s Times Square.

But all nine locations are now just a memory with the restaurants closed down.

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Chi-Chi’s

Francois Roux/Adobe hands picking up nachos from platter

Chi-Chi’s was a good Mexican food option if you wanted to sit down for some nachos, chimichangas, or fried ice cream.

The chain, however, shut down in 2003 after a series of problems including bankruptcy, lawsuits, and a Hepatitis A outbreak.

Bob’s Big Boy

webookem/Adobe Bob's Big Boy Mascot norco california

A man dressed in red overalls and a checkered shirt was there to greet you with a smile at Bob’s Big Boy restaurants. The Big Boy mascot even made an appearance in an Austin Powers movie in the ‘90s.

The chain went under in the early 2000s and has been revived in some states. Most, however, have said goodbye to Bob’s Big Boy for good.

Rainforest Cafe

Victoria/Adobe Rainforest Cafe emblem outside restaurant

Rainforest Cafes were themed restaurants with animatronic animals, simulated storms, and plenty of things to see all around you.

The cafes were also expensive to run, leading to the demise of many of them with only around half of them still around in states like California, Texas, and Florida.

Kenny Rogers Roasters

Atstock Productions/Adobe woman eating deep fried chicken

You could find some good chicken at a local mall if it had a Kenny Rogers Roasters, which featured roasted chicken and corn muffins.

But the chain was around for less than a decade before it filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and was sold.

Maggie Moo’s Ice Cream and Treatery

Stan Reese/Adobe Maggie Moo's Bridge Street Huntsville Alabama

There was something unique about the colorful logo for Maggie Moo’s along with a cow with big eyelashes and lipstick.

The ice cream store was a treat to visit for many customers until the chain was bought in 2021. The stores were bought by FAT Brands and most of the locations were converted to Marble Slab Creamery locations instead.

Ponderosa

JHVEPhoto/Adobe Ponderosa Steakhouse billboard Pearland texas

Buffets were a great all-you-can-eat option, and there was nothing quite like a family trip to Ponderosa to find something everyone in the family would enjoy.

The buffet chain merged with Bonanza in the late 1990s and then filed for bankruptcy about a decade later, shutting down most locations and leaving families longing for their favorite buffet.

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Howard Johnson’s

billtster/Adobe Howard Johnson hotel street sign

You may remember Howard Johnson’s for its restaurants and hotels across the U.S.

At one point, the chain had 1,000 locations across the country but struggled to compete as fast food options moved in. The last remaining Howard Johnson’s, located in Lake George, New York, finally closed its restaurant doors in 2022.

Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes

Tada Images/Adobe Sweet Tomatoes restaurant tigard

Souplantation along with Sweet Tomatoes offered delicious buffet options like a salad bar, soup selection, and pasta bar.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and its remaining locations took a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, dooming the restaurant chain to be a has-been option for diners.

Casa Bonita

eskstock/Adobe woman eating mexican burrito at restaurant

Casa Bonita had several locations throughout the West and Southwest in the ‘90s but struggled to bring in patrons and eventually folded most of the restaurants.

The Denver location, however, struggled along and was even made famous in an episode of the TV show South Park. The show’s creators eventually bought the Denver location and revamped it, but the chain’s other spots are gone.

Sizzler

jetcityimage/Adobe Sizzler restaurant board outdoor

Sizzler was the steakhouse families would go to for special occasions or just to grab a good steak dinner. The restaurant started in California before spreading to other states, including Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and more.

The chain became another victim of struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic and filed for bankruptcy in September 2020.

Orange Julius

jetcityimage/Adobe Dairy Queen and Orange Julius billboard

There was nothing quite like getting an Orange Julius from the food court at your local mall with a cup packed with the famous orange juice drink.

The chain was bought by Dairy Queen in 1987, so you can still enjoy an Orange Julius drink, but you’ll have to find a Dairy Queen to get one.

Bottom line

pilipphoto/Adobe people eating burger at restaurant

Some restaurants are gone but there are still great spots for you to spend some time with family or friends, or enjoy a date night.

If you’re trying to save money, see if your favorite restaurants have mobile apps that will allow you to earn points for perks and rewards when you frequent them.

It’s also a good idea to check your wallet for the best rewards credit cards to get points that you can redeem for other options later on.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.