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RIP To These Restaurant Franchises

From 90’s celebrity-endorsed theme restaurants to blatant White Castle rip-offs, these once-massive fast food chains are now nothing but a distant memory.

While it is hard to imagine a world without iconic chains like McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's, there are in fact dozens of fast food franchises that at one time boasted similarly massive footprints and legions of devoted fans, but are now long gone. 

Whether it be because of poor management, bad luck, costly operations or an inability to stand out from the competition, many formerly beloved restaurant franchises have shuttered their stores for good. Take a trip down memory lane with five of our favorite failed restaurant franchises.

All Star Café

Theme restaurants were all the rage in the 1990’s, and this Planet Hollywood-owned franchise was one of the trend’s most popular creations. With celebrity franchisees like Andre Agassi, Joe Montana, Ken Griffey Jr. and Shaquille O'Neal, All Star Café seemed like it was destined for greatness at its peak of 10 locations, all of which were situated in bustling tourist destinations like Times Square. But as the dream of the 90’s faded away, so too did the All Star Café. The last restaurant, which was located in Walt Disney World's Wide World of Sports, closed in 2007.

Chi-Chi's Mexican Restaurant

As one of the first Mexican restaurant franchises, Chi-Chi’s expanded to a whopping 210 locations in only two decades after originally opening in Minneapolis in 1975. However, a series of poor financial decisions and an unfortunate hepatitis A outbreak in 2003 proved to be too much for the chain to handle. There are currently no Chi-Chi's left in the U.S., but a few still exist across Europe.

Howard Johnson's

When Howard Johnson launched his eponymous chain in the 1920s, he set out to revolutionize the dining industry by starting a network of franchises adhering to precise specifications in prime locations. The strategy worked — at one point, Howard Johnson's was the largest restaurant chain in the country, and most locations were franchised. Unfortunately, the chain’s once-revolutionary business model of serving pre-made, high-quality food in traditional dining rooms slowly fell out of fashion as more affordable and speedy brands like McDonald's began to dominate the landscape.

Pup ‘N’ Taco

Hot dogs and tacos — a combination too good to fail? Apparently not. Pup 'n' Taco was founded in 1956 by Big Donut founder Russ Wendel in Southern California, and grew to feature more than 100 stores. But the eclectic menu, which also featured a variety of slushes and burgers, may have been trying to offer too many things at once. In 1984, emerging competitor Taco Bell purchased 99 of the Pup 'n' Taco locations and the remaining three shut off the lights in the 2010s.

White Tower Hamburgers

White Tower Hamburgers is a prime example of why copying another brand’s success can only get you so far. The chain was founded by a father-and-son team in Milwaukee in 1926 as a shameless White Castle rip-off. The restaurants even included the notorious white fortress-like buildings and offered a very similar menu. White Castle eventually sued White Tower around 1930, and the court forced the chain to change its aesthetic. Although White Tower survived the lawsuit and ended up expanding to a peak of 230 locations in the 1950s, the chain officially shuttered its last location in 2004.