The 4th largest steakhouse chain in America went out of business
America’s love affair with steak dinners began several decades ago and remains as strong today.
While the current competitive steakhouse landscape is dominated by household names like Outback, Longhorn, and Texas Roadhouse, many steakhouse giants have come and gone before them.
Here’s a walk down memory lane that takes stock of several beloved American steakhouse chains that went out of business.
One should have told Mr. Steak not to “fix what ain’t broke”, as the pivot of the popular chain outside Steak appears to be his demise.
The popular nationwide brand was first launched in Colorado in the 1960s, when the steak dinner was a symbol of the American lifestyle. This affordable, USDA choice of steak—serving a T-Bone steak dinner that includes salad, a choice of potatoes and toast—will set you back $3.99 ($2.99 with coupon.)
During the following decades, the chain flourished with its simple message of high-protein, well-priced dinner options and reached its peak in 1978 with 278 units nationwide.
But the chain then tried to diversify what it believed was a shift in public opinion on steak, adding chicken, fish, salads and other options to its menu, which confused the message to its customers. In addition, customers were already being pulled in by competitors such as Sizzler, Outback, Longhorn and Logan, who did not have an identity crisis.
Add to this a money-losing effort to expand and the chain ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1984 at a reduced store count of only 150. In 1993, the chain attempted a comeback by rebranding its remaining 40 locations to Mr. Steak’s Firegrill, a modern western-themed concept with a spacious dining room, visible cooking area, lounge, and new decor.
In 2009, Mr. Steak’s Final location closed its doors in St. Charles, Mo. Some locations in Michigan were rebranded as Finlays, and you can still enjoy steak there today.
Another relic from the ’60s, the Steak and Ale brand started out as a chain in Dallas that offers high-end steak experiences at affordable prices. Its signature dishes included herb-roasted prime rib, NY strip and filet mignon, while the menu was punctuated with an offering of unlimited salads and the soups that accompanies most dishes.
In 1976, Pillsbury bought all 113 steak and ale locations and ended up taking it to new heights—by the late ’80s, the chain was at its peak with 280 restaurants nationwide. But the competition started reaching its peak, and the company soon started on a downward trajectory.
In 2008, as part of the bankruptcy proceedings of its parent company, the chain’s remaining 58 locations were closed permanently.
However, there has been recent chatter about reviving Steak & Ale, whose intellectual property such as branding and recipes safely resides with Legendary Restaurant Brands, LLC, the parent company of Benignons and Benignons on the Fly. The chain is reportedly opening its first location in Cancun, Mexico and is looking for franchises in the United States.
This steak and lobster joint must be doing something right as it was for an impressive tenure of nearly seven decades. The chain’s locations, scattered throughout Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Florida and Georgia, operate spacious dining rooms and provide quick service to their patrons, giving them fast business. benefit from. of customers.
But by the ’80s, the company was in turmoil and Judith and Richard Valle, part of the founding family, were looking to offload their controlling shares in the company. At the time, Vale operated 32 locations and this was the beginning of the end for its shrinking footprint.
The last three places closed in December of 1991.
Owned by grain giant General Mills, this cafeteria-style chain of restaurants was quite a name on the steakhouse scene in the ’70s and ’80s. In its heyday in 1982, York operated nearly 200 locations in 27 states stretching from Texas to Maine. Most of the venues were housed inside malls and served hot and cold items such as the popular steak, potato and salad combo.
Some of the chain’s locations would eventually become alternatives to York, which included a storefront bakery and dessert display. But once General Mills was out of the relationship, things went downhill for the strip mall staple. The chain began to drop locations and while some remained in operation as independent restaurants for many years, the brand was largely decimated by the early aughts.
One Last York Steak House location still operating today is in Columbus, Ohio. According to its website, the restaurant is keeping the nostalgia as well as the former concept of quality steak very alive.