The restaurant business is tough. Although the claim that 90% of restaurants fail is exaggerated, it might feel that way to the people who have lost their business. Popular places with good food can still run into trouble as these restaurants attest. Here are 10 Beloved Restaurants That Sadly Didn’t Survive The Past Decade.
10. Four Seasons For Closing
The Four Seasons opened in Manhattan in 1959, and in the decades since had come to define culinary excellence in a city with countless upscale restaurants. The New York publishing sector, countless celebrities, and every president since it opened except Richard Nixon visited the Four Seasons. But, by 2018 even the owners of a restaurant with the Four Seasons’ reputation found that running a business in high-priced and highly-regulated New York City can be problematic for any business owner. The iconic restaurant’s troubles started to show in 2015 when the owner of the property where it sits declined to renew the lease. A different restaurant was allowed to take over the property and the Four Seasons found a new location on 49th Street. However, less than a year after reopening, it was in trouble. Alex von Bidder, the managing partner, announced that even though the restaurant had been a fixture in Manhattan for sixty years, it would sadly not survive any longer. The Four Seasons served its final meals in August 2018.
9. No More Jaime’s Italian
You can find decent Italian restaurants all around the world. and while you can still find a couple locations of the restaurant open at this time, these locations are actually owned by a different company. Celebrity chef Jaime Oliver had to start closing down Jaime’s Italian locations back in 2017. That year he closed six of the 42 locations in the United Kingdom. Oliver was actually sincerely puzzled by all this stating, he honestly didn’t know what happened and that he was still trying to work it all out. He went on to cite rent costs, rates, high street declining, food costs, Brexit, an increase to the minimum wage, all as factors to the decline of the restaurants. Finally stating, “there was a lot going on.” Oliver had established the goal of “disrupting” the mid-market dining experience in the United Kingdom with superior ingredients and great service. It sounds like Jaime Oliver and the restaurant chain’s employees had every reason to think they would be successful. Ultimately however, about 1,000 employees lost their jobs. The fact that a well known Italian restaurant sadly didn’t survive the past decade has to make you wonder how any restaurant survives as long as they do.
8. Gordon Ramsey’s Fat Cow
It seems surprising that a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef of Gordon Ramsey’s stature sadly couldn’t last the decade, or even more than two years after opening in Los Angeles in 2012. While some of the employees who worked at Fat Cow claimed the the restaurant was doing good, this eatery simply ran into more road blocks than it could handle. Ramsey and his business partner simply could not work things out to satisfy both parties. Problems began when contractors sued the restaurant claiming that they were still owed more than $43,000 dollars for work they’d completed. At one point, employees filed a lawsuit against the restaurant, stating that they were not being paid minimum wage and overtime. As if those legal challenges weren’t enough, after the closure of the restaurant, the landlord sued for not having been paid more than $50,000 dollars in rent. Alongside all this was Ramsay’s business partner in this venture, which Ramsay would go on to heap a fair share of the blame on. Claiming that his business partner was lying about everything and that the restaurant closure was more so, all his fault. Yikes, this sounds like a disaster Ramsay is usually trying to fix on one of his shows, not one of his own restaurants. Whether it really was all Ramsay’s business partner fault, or just a perfect storm of misfortunes, either way, Fat Cow is no more. Critics took their shots as well, like one report which referred to Fat Cow as a “low experience” and “a cynical exercise”. Perhaps Ramsey will find greener pastures in the Los Angeles restaurant scene, but for Fat Cow, the party ended years ago. The troubled eatery closed its doors for the last time in March 2014. If Gordon Ramsey is anything, he is a stubborn perfectionist who will make a go of other restaurants, and they’ll likely be winners.
7. The Gamble on Kenny Rogers Roasters
If you’re familiar with the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld, you might remember the episode where Jerry Seinfeld’s friend Kramer gets himself hooked on the chicken at Kenny Rogers Roasters. The chain of fast food chicken restaurants was founded in 1991 by the country music crooner and a former Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO, John Y. Brown Jr. Kenny Rogers Roasters offered wood-fired rotisserie chicken and a variety of sides to customers. This was in contrast to places like KFC that specialized in more greasy fried chicken. Kenny Rogers Roasters offered a healthier eating experience than much of its competition and used the tagline “less fat…less salt…less calories” to promote it. The company found some success in the 1990s and expanded its number of stores to more than 400, which included locations in the United States and around the world. However, by 2000, it had filed for bankruptcy and cut its number of stores to 90. Almost half of these locations were operating in the United States. In 2008 the fast food chain was sold to an investment group that continued operations of the company, but mostly in Asia. The last Kenny Rogers Roasters in the U.S. closed in 2011, but Malaysia and the Philippines continue to open stores. After his unfortunate passing in March of 2020, the late great Kenny Rogers will always be remembered for his music, but also to a lesser extent, for his foray into the restaurant business.
6. Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar
Sadly, Guy Fieri’s Times square restaurant in Manhattan didn’t survive the last decade. It may have suffered the fate of too many good restaurants: exorbitant rents that put a lot of pressure on a business’s bottom line. Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar seemed like the kind of place tourists would flock to as they hustled to get a bite of the Big Apple, and it seems like they did, because Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar was listed as the 39th most successful eatery in America. Even with these accolades, it closed for good in December 2017. The question is: how much money does a restaurant need to bring in to stay profitable in one of the world’s most expensive pieces of real estate? A lot apparently, but even with a reported $1.8 million dollar rent payment, Guy’s place was said to be turning a profit until it was closed down. So what happened? According to some articles, the Times Square restaurant received more than its share of negative attention on social media for its unconventional menu and spotty service. Details are scarce, but there have been reports about a dispute with Kushner Companies, who owns the property. Fieri has had some other restaurant troubles recently as his earliest enterprise, Tex Wasabi, closed its last remaining location in California at the end of 2019. Guy Fieri seems like a nice guy, and he hosts a popular show on the Food Network called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so all we can do is wonder what his next restaurant project will be.
5. Colicchio & Sons
Colicchio & Sons was established in 2010 in the exclusive Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea, New York. This area is known for its fine restaurants and art galleries, so it seems like an ideal location for a high-end eatery. Chef and owner Tom Colicchio was forced to bow to the inevitable and close his restaurant’s doors for good in September 2016. Colicchio had previously run a steakhouse in the same space that was called Craftsteak, but customers’ appetites for $100 steaks were sliced severely during the recession. Although Colicchio & Sons did earn a three star rating from restaurant critics, the customer reviews on the other hand tended to be more of a mixed bag. Some customers complained that “dishes were hit or miss” and “overly fussy.” A number of professional restaurant critics gave the exclusive eatery good reviews, but this wasn’t enough to insulate it from the troubles it was about to face. When the economy started to slow down in 2014, both prices and portion sizes were reduced, but these steps proved to be insufficient to stem the losses in revenue. Colicchio has had restaurants before this one and will have other restaurants going forward. However, it is worth noting that a popular celebrity chef couldn’t make a restaurant work in a wealthy part of New York City.
4. Not so Super Mario
It turned out celebrity chef Mario Batali had much bigger problems than how his restaurants were doing. In 2018 he was the focus of sexual assault complaints that were investigated by the New York City Police Department. Eight women have accused the chef of instances of “inappropriate touching” over a span of nearly two decades. And while Batali did vehemently deny any allegations of sexual assault, he also said in a statement issued by his representative that his “past behavior has been deeply inappropriate” and that he was “sincerely remorseful for his actions.” So decipher that as you will… In the midst of this investigation, fans of Batali’s food found out that his three restaurants in Las Vegas would close at the end of July. The closing of B&B Ristorante, Otto, and CarneVino was to impact about 300 employees who would lose their jobs. In the case of these restaurants, it wasn’t that they weren’t performing well in Las Vegas; the eateries were located in hotel/casinos so there was plenty of foot traffic to keep the restaurants full of customers. However, an investor group that owned part of the restaurants broke off its relationship with Batali, ending the leases on the locations the restaurants operated in, forcing them to close up and move out. Batali still has several other Restaurants that he owns or has ownership stakes in. Only time will tell on how the investigations will also affect these other establishments.
3. Shophouse Asian Kitchen
Back in 2011, Chipotle thought it was a good idea to try their customizable approach to fast food with Southeast Asian Thai cuisine. Shophouse Asian Kitchen offered its own take on various rice and noodle dishes as well as Asian themed salads. Asian food is generally popular in America, especially Chinese and Japanese, but it seems like the Thai-themed menu never really caught on with customers. The Asian restaurant chain’s owner, Chipotle, made the decision to close all 15 of the Shophouse locations in March 2017. Unfortunately for the Asian-inspired fast food chain, Chipotle felt it had bigger fish to fry because it was in the middle of trying to limit the damage from its very public E. coli contamination problem. The outbreak at Chipotle locations had deeply shaken customers’ confidence in the fast food chain. This was a big news story that captured peoples’ attention and definitely hurt Chipotle, at least in the short run. There is little doubt that Shophouse was a casualty of that pain. Because the Shophouse chain didn’t make it, the employees at those locations were offered jobs at Chipotle locations near them. This was a nice gesture by the company toward people who had been uprooted through no fault of their own, but those employees probably wished Shophouse Asian Kitchen had not failed to survive the decade.
2. No More Choi
Roy Choi opened a somewhat-healthy fast food restaurant in the Watts area of Los Angeles in 2016. Although Los Angeles is a big market where good restaurants should be able to flourish, Choi’s Locol eatery only lasted two years before having to close down in 2018. Choi had expressed interest in opening in Watts because it doesn’t have a lot of restaurants, and businesses in general tend to want to leave the area rather than open up. Choi also opened a Locol in both Oakland and San Jose. The menu at Choi’s eateries consisted mostly of things like tacos, chili bowls, sandwiches and sundaes. However, too many customers found the prices to be too high. Choi explained that fresh made meals sourced from local growers with attention to healthier eating cannot really be done as cheaply as traditional fast food chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell can do it. The L.A. Times food critic named Locol the restaurant of the year, but some critics were much less kind. The New York Times critic was pretty blunt in his assessment judging that Locol was too pricey and the food wasn’t particularly good either. Unfortunately it seems like Choi may not have appreciated just how reluctant the residents of Watts would be to spend more than they had been used to spending on fast food staples like tacos and sandwiches.
1. No Pizzeria Locale
Even though there is no shortage of good pizza restaurants in the United States, particularly on the East Coast and MidWest, Chipotle decided there needed to be at least one more pizza chain. They couldn’t be satisfied with opening an Asian-themed restaurant chain that didn’t make it, so they doubled down with a chain of pizza restaurants called Pizzeria Locale. The project was a collaboration with restaurant owner Bobby Stuckey, and the pizzerias were inspired by authentic pizza restaurants in Naples, Italy. In addition to pizza, the restaurants sold salads and sides such as freshly prepared prosciutto. In June 2018, the CEO of Chipotle announced that as many as 65 of the Pizzeria Locale’s locations would be closing. In fact, all locations would end up being closed, except for the ones found in the great state of Colorado. That’s right, Pizzeria Locale did not technically completely disappear. if you’re in the greater Denver area, you’ve got 3 locations to choose from, soon to be 4, according to their website. So while you can definitively say that this restaurant has closed as a nationwide chain, and that partnering up with Chipotle actually hurt more than it helped, this pizza restaurant has not kicked the can just yet! It’s just back to being a local Denver pizza joint serving up deliciously fresh pizza pies, Pizzeria Locale is a survivor!