Family Life


These Iconic 1980s Restaurants Are Nearly All Extinct

These Iconic 1980s Restaurants Are Nearly All Extinct

The 1980s was a special time for family-friendly dining in America. Lots of restaurants soared to new heights, with countless corporate and franchised locations opening up from coast to coast. It seems, however, that chain restaurants are a dying breed as locally owned boutique-style options open in cities throughout the nation. Here are seven iconic restaurants the enjoyed the height of their fame in the 1980s but today are nearly extinct.

Steak & Ale

  • Founded in 1966 by Norman Brinker
  • Filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2008 and closed for good
  • Had as many as 280 locations in the 1980s
  • Announced in April 2024 that Steak & Ale is being revived

Howard Johnson’s

  • Began as a drug store/soda fountain
  • The first restaurant in 1929 by 32-year-old Howard Deering Johnson
  • HoJo’s was the largest American restaurant chain in the 1950s and ’60s, with more than 1,000 restaurants by 1979
  • Today, after multiple company ownership changes, only one Howard Johnson’s restaurant is still in operation

Bonanza Steakhouse

  • Founded in 1963 by Dan Blocker, who played “Hoss” on the show Bonanza
  • First location opened in Westport, Connecticut
  • Peaked in 1989 with nearly 600 locations
  • As of April 2024, only three Bonanza locations remain in the U.S.


  • Founded in 1978 in Norcross, GA
  • Brought a nutritious flavor to fast food
  • More than 100 stores open by 1985
  • By end of 1986, all were closed due to bankruptcy, caused in large part by the fact other fast food restaurants began offering more nutritious options


  • Founded in Richfield, MN, in 1975
  • Co-founder’s wife’s nickname was Chi Chi
  • Rose in popularity in the 1980s, and had 210 locations by 1995
  • Filed for bankruptcy in October 2003
  • In November 2003, Chi-Chi’s had the largest hepatitis A outbreak in American history

Rax Roast Beef

  • Peaked in the 1980s with more than 500 locations
  • The company has declared bankruptcy more than once
  • As of 2024, there are only six Rax locations still in operation

ShowBiz Pizza

  • The first ShowBiz Pizza opened in March of 1980 in Kansas City, Missouri
  • The “house band” was called the Rock-afire Explosion
  • By 1981, there were 90 ShowBiz Pizza locations — 42 franchises and 48 company-owned
  • Today, there are only a handful of ShowBiz locations still open, none of which are in the U.S.
To top