5 of America’s favorite restaurant chains are desperate for customers

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Many of the casual chain restaurants that Americans know and love may be in serious trouble because of a so-called “restaurant recession” going on right now.

TDn2K reported that 2016 was the industry’s worst year since the recession, but 2017 isn’t looking any better so far.

Read more: 5 ways my Instant Pot pressure cooker makes life so much easier

5 restaurant chains struggling to fill seats

Already this year, several major restaurant chains have shut down under-performing locations, often with little or no notice to the staff and clientele.

That’s one reason why Clark does not want you to buy restaurant gift cards right now.

So why aren’t people eating at casual restaurants anymore? Clark has said that many people — particularly millennials — are eating at home because grocery prices are down.

Our Facebook fans say there are several other factors:

  • Prices are too high
  • Food quality has declined
  • Poor and slow service
  • Prefer to support local restaurants

Clark.com used the latest sales data for the following major casual restaurants to identify those that are struggling to fill seats. Are any of your favorites on this list?

1. Buffalo Wild Wings

The high cost of chicken wings is really hurting Buffalo Wild Wings, which is doing away with its popular Tuesday wing deal.


During an earnings call in July, company executives said the second quarter of 2017 was “challenging” for Buffalo Wild Wings and the casual dining industry as a whole.

The half-off traditional wing deal is being replaced with a special on boneless chicken wings.

2. Applebee’s

Applebee’s president John Cywinski said in May that it’s his job to work with franchisees to repair the struggling brand.

He said some of the chain’s recent sales erosion has been self-inflicted and time is needed to fully implement a plan to win back the support of former customers.

In July, Applebee’s began that transformation by introducing a special menu with entrees starting at $10.99.

Read more: Applebee’s just announced a major change to its menu

3. Chili’s


Brinker International announced in late April that Chili’s company-owned comparable restaurant sales decreased 2.3% in the third quarter of fiscal 2017.

Due to the poor performance, Chili’s has reorganized its restaurant operations team.


Read more: 5 big changes coming to Chili’s

4. Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday

The bad news keeps coming for Ruby Tuesday, which closed nearly 100 restaurants in late 2016.

In early April of this year, the company announced a 16.8% decline in total revenue and a 4% drop in same-restaurant sales for fiscal third quarter 2017.

The chain says it’s in the process of reviewing “all strategic alternatives,” including a possible sale or merger.

Read more: Ruby Tuesday just made its biggest menu change in a decade

5. Red Robin

Red Robin

Comparable restaurant revenue fell 1.2% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period a year ago, the burger joint Red Robin announced in May.

The company attributed the slide to fewer guest counts, which were down 1.7% for the quarter.

Who’s doing well? Olive Garden!

If you’re looking for a bright spot in the casual dining category, you can count on Olive Garden to be around for a long time! People just can’t get enough of the salad, breadsticks and Italian favorites.


Same-restaurant sales growth was 4.4% for the past quarter as the company focuses on food, service and atmosphere.

Read more: 5 secret menu hacks you probably haven’t tried

Why you don’t want to buy these gift cards