The restaurant business is a notoriously tough one. According to CNBC, about 60 percent of new restaurants fail within their first year, while 80 percent don’t make it to five years. Even for those that make it past that benchmark, perpetual success is far from guaranteed, and chains that are hits for decades can still find themselves dealing with unexpected downturns and untimely ends.
Let’s take a look at just a few restaurant chains that enjoyed fame and prosperity for a time, before closing their doors and fading from memory.
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor
We’ll start with a recent addition to the list of chain restaurants that have met their end. Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor was founded in 1963, with Bob Farrell and Ken McCarthy opening the first location in Portland, Oregon. Serving ice cream as well as sandwiches, burgers, and other meals, Farrell’s restaurants were decorated in a style reminiscent of the turn of the 20th century, complete with player pianos and servers in dandy period dress. One of its signature items, the “Zoo,” was an enormous ice cream sundae, intended for multiple people, brought out by servers on a stretcher, to the fanfare of ambulance sirens.
By 1975, Farrell’s had been acquired by the Marriott corporation and opened 120 locations throughout the country. After this time, however, business started to drop off. Marriott sold the chain in 1982, and most locations had closed by 1990. Farrell’s eventually resurfaced in the ’00s and ’10s with seven California locations and one in Hawaii. Unfortunately, the revived chain didn’t perform well, and the company was $2 million in debt by 2016. The final Farrell’s location in Brea, California closed last June.