12 iconic restaurant chains that no longer exist in America

From America’s first food-service automat to a burger joint named after a comic book character, some of America’s most iconic chain restaurants are now defunct.Andreas Feininger / Getty Images

  • No restaurant chain can live forever, no matter how popular or unique it is.
  • From America’s first food-service automat to a castle-themed buffet to country comedian chicken joints, many classic restaurant chains have come and gone.
  • Here are 12 iconic restaurant chains that no longer exist in the US.
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Corporations, like people, are not immortal.

This is especially true of chain restaurants, many of which have closed as times and tastes have changed.

A hamburger chain can reach over 1,200 locations, then be sold 10 years later to a hungry competitor who wants to scrap it for parts.

There was Horn & Hardart, America’s first automated restaurants, which accompanied the country through the Gilded Era, the Great Depression, two world wars, the moon landing, and the first season of “Twin Peaks.”

Soon after H&H’s last automat shut its doors forever, Kenny Rogers founded a chicken chain that Kramer became obsessed with in an episode of “Seinfeld.” 

Read more: 14 retro electronics stores that no longer exist

There was a steakhouse with animatronic mascots, an Oklahoman Mexican-style eatertainment chain with grottos and roaming mariachi bands, and a vaguely medieval-themed SoCal cult-favorite buffet.

The success of these chains at their peak ranged from mild to wild, but they were all at some point a part of America’s cultural consciousness.

Here are some of the most iconic American restaurant chains that have fallen from grace.


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