- Even with dining rooms reopening in some parts of the country, it's still nigh-impossible for casual dining restaurants to generate a profit at reduced dine-in capacity.
- As a result, many chains have decided to permanently close some stores, and some brands have decided to throw in the towel altogether.
- IHOP, Denny's, and TGI Fridays are among the 9 chains that have cumulatively closed over 600 restaurants for good.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .
It has begun.
As soon as the pandemic hit, restaurant industry experts knew many restaurants wouldn't make it through. On April 1, UBS predicted that one in five restaurants may close as a result of the pandemic.
While independents are much harder hit than many chain restaurants, chains aren't immune. Chains often rely on independent owner-operators to run restaurants, and these franchises often don't have the same robust financial resources of the brands they represent.
Even though much of America is opening up, most locales have implemented social distancing guidelines that make it impossible for restaurants to generate a profit even if they reopen dining rooms. And early data shows that reopening isn't the fiscal cure-all some hoped it would be, especially for restaurants.
Some chains have already filed for bankruptcy protection, or have decided to close all units. Others are taking a slower, quieter, or more measured approach to closures. However, this is likely only the beginning of a large wave of closures for casual dining concepts, which are much less likely to make it through the pandemic unscathed than delivery-oriented restaurants.
Here's a list of chain restaurant closures since the pandemic started:
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TGI Friday's: as many as 20% of the chain's 386 restaurants
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
On May 26, TGI Friday's CEO Ray Blanchette told Bloomberg the chain could permanently close up to 20% of its 386 restaurants.
As restaurants reopen to limited dine-in capacity, TGI Friday's is experimenting with outdoor tent seating.
Steak n' Shake: 51 restaurants
Steak n' Shake has been on the slide for a long time, and numerous attempts to reinvent the brand and recapture customers haven't quite succeeded. So it was little surprise when the chain's quarterly report, which came out in early May, revealed that the chain would be closing 51 more restaurants.
Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation: all 97 restaurants
Photo by Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The pandemic has been especially bad news for buffet restaurants . Garden Fresh, the parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, filed for bankruptcy in early May. It became the first (and so far, the only) major buffet chain to announce it would close all restaurants permanently due to the pandemic's impact on business.
Denny's: 16 restaurants
Irene Jiang / Business Insider
On May 22, Denny's announced it would close 15 locations permanently. The closed locations were operated by one franchisee, Feast American Diners. Denny's also closed one corporate-owned location in the last quarter.
Brio Italian Mediterranean and Bravo Italian Cucina: 71 restaurants
Maria A. / Yelp
FoodFirst Global Restaurants, the parent company of Brio Italian Mediterranean and Bravo Fresh Italian, filed for bankruptcy in April and announced it would close 71 out of its 92 restaurants. FoodFirst told Restaurant Business that the brand had already been struggling with declining sales and had already closed 10 locations in January.
Specialty's Bakery and Cafe: all 33 restaurants
On May 18, Pacific Northwest chain Specialty's Bakery and Caf suddenly announced it would close all 33 locations for good after May 19. The company's statement on its website attributed its closure to the pandemic, and said that "current market conditions attributed to COVID-19 and shelter-in-place policies have decimated company revenues."
Ruby Tuesday: 147 restaurants since January 23
Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Like many of the other brands on this list, Ruby Tuesday had been struggling long before the pandemic . But since January, the casual dining chain has been quietly closing restaurants and scrubbing them off its website without a trace .
Le Pain Quotidien: up to 63 out of 98 restaurants
Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images
The pandemic quickly swept the US arm of bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien into bankruptcy, forcing it to close all 98 of its stores . Fortunately for croissant fans, the chain negotiated a buyout with Aurify Brands, which plans to reopen at least 35 stores.
IHOP: at least 49 restaurants in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Irene Jiang / Business Insider
IHOP franchisee CFRA Holdings, LLC., which runs 49 restaurants across Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, filed for bankruptcy on May 6. News reports across those states show sudden closures of local IHOP restaurants, although it is unclear if those restaurants were operated by CFRA Holdings. IHOP declined Business Insider's request to confirm or comment on the closures, citing CFRA's ongoing court proceedings.
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