Sunday, May 22, 2022

In Their Footsteps: Do You Remember These Restaurant Chains on Cape Cod?

    A chain restaurant is an establishment with many locations under the same company’s ownership. A similar business model is that of the franchise where the overall restaurant concept is sold to different owners. In America there are countless famed chain and franchise restaurants from fast food juggernauts like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, to casual sit-down eateries like Applebee’s, Olive Garden, and Chili’s.

    Cape Cod in the last half century has seen a greater influx of the chain and franchise restaurants after spending much of the previous half century relying on single-location ‘mom and pop’ type establishments. Today there are well-established chains on the peninsula like McDonald’s, 99 Restaurants, and Olive Garden.

    Looking back though there have been some famous chains and franchises that once called Cape Cod home. A few were here recently, a few closed long ago. Do you remember when Cape Cod housed these former iconic chains? Here is a list of some of them that once resided on the Cape.

  1. Howard Johnson’s                                                

    Charles Hathaway/Flickr

    Est. 1925 – around 1,000 locations at peak                                                    This was the original chain/franchise. It opened its very first location in Wollaston, Massachusetts. It was known for its bright orange roof. Owned by Howard Deering Johnson the burgers and ice cream establishment opened its first franchise in Orleans at the junction of Rt. 6A and Rt. 28. Later there would be locations in West Dennis, Hyannis, Bourne, and Falmouth. As of 2022 only one Howard Johnson’s remains in Lake George, New York.                                                                                        

  2. Burger Chef                                                          

    Est. 1954 – 1,050 locations at peak                                                                          For a time in the 1970’s Burger Chef was the #2 fast food restaurant in America behind only McDonald’s. The first location was opened in Indianapolis, Indiana. Known for signature items like the Big Shef and Super Shef burgers as well as being the originator of the kid’s meal, Burger Chef made its way to Cape Cod in the late 1960’s. Their one location was on Rt. 28 in West Yarmouth and lasted until the early 1980’s. It was in 1982 when Burger Chef was sold, with most locations being converted to Hardee’s, or simply closed down.                                                                                                                                                   

  3. Denny’s   

    Est. 1953 – 1,487 locations in 2021                                                            Denny’s is a powerhouse in the sit-down breakfast restaurant business. Their Grand Slam breakfast is well-known across America. It was originally founded in Lakewood, California by Harold Butler and Richard Jezak. For nearly the entirety of its existence Denny’s has been rivaled by the International House of Pancakes(est. 1958). This came to be on Cape Cod as well when Denny’s opened its only location on Rt. 132 in Hyannis in 1983. IHOP was and still is located a half-mile down the road. Denny’s only lasted a few years before being shuttered on the Cape though. The nearest Denny’s to Cape Cod is currently in Fall River.                                                                 

  4. Mr. Donut                                                         

    Est. 1955 – around 550 locations at peak                                                                  This spot is shockingly bigger than ever, despite only having one remaining location in America. It was established in 1955 by Harry Winkour. He had worked with his brother-in-law William Rosenberg who had established Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. Mr. Donut had a pair of Cape Cod locations in Hyannis on Rt. 28 and West Main Street from the late 1970’s through the early 1990’s. As of 2022 there is only one Mr. Donut remaining in the United States, that being in Godfrey, Illinois. However in total there are roughly 5,500 Mr. Donut locations worldwide, with the majority being in Asia.                                                                                                                                                      

  5. Old Country Buffet                                                             

    Est. 1983 – around 500 locations at peak                                                                     A more recent entry this family-style buffet spot was a staple for decades peaking at about 500 locations in 36 states. In Hyannis this establishment was located in the Festival shopping plaza from 1995-2010. It was a popular and low-cost spot for family meals and gatherings for local sports teams after games. Three bankruptcy filings came, combined with an increasing worry over obesity by many Americans. This spelled the slow decline of the buffet chain. As of 2022 the number of Old Country Buffet restaurants left in the U.S. stood at 17 and shrinking.                                                                         

  6. Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips                                                                                                             

    Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr

    Est. 1969 – over 800 locations at peak                                                                   This chain was named for English character actor Arthur Treacher who had roles in Mary Poppins and was a butler in several Shirley Temple films. The classic seafood fare restaurant began in Columbus, Ohio in 1969 with Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas as one of the principal owners. By the late-1970’s it grew to its peak of over 800 locations. This included 2 locations on Cape Cod. One was on Rt. 28 in South Yarmouth where the Lighthouse Landing strip mall is, which opened in May 1977. The other on North Street in Hyannis opened in 1978. They both last only a few years. As of 2022 there is only one Arthur Treacher’s left in America in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

  7. Jack In the Box                                                                                                                                          

    Est. 1951 – 2,228 locations as of 2021                                                                   The largest active chain on this list Jack In the Box is firmly established throughout the south and west of the United States. Whether for the unique mascot ‘Jack’ or it’s eclectic menu including traditional burgers and fries but also tacos this chain has been a staple for more than 70 years. It was originally founded by Robert Peterson in San Diego, California and sports more than 2,200 locations as of 2022. On Cape Cod Jack In the Box had its one and only location debut inside the Cape Cod Mall upon the shopping center’s grand opening in 1970. It survived for a decade before closing. Today the closest Jack In the Box locations are in North Carolina.                            

  8. Hooters    

    Est. 1983 – 311 locations as of 2021                                                                 Another recent entry, Hooters had a location on Main Street in Hyannis. Founded in 1983 in Clearwater, Florida this sports bar type establishment is known as much for its servers known as ‘Hooters Girls’ as it is for its actual cuisine. The Cape Cod location opened in 2003 despite major opposition. It only last a few years before shuttering in 2007. The former location is currently home to Kkatie’s Burger Bar. If you’re craving Hooters wings the nearest one is in Warwick, Rhode Island.                       

  9. Sambo’s                                                                

    Est. 1957 – over 1,100 locations at peak                                                                  This once-popular chain, with a controversial name, was founded in Santa Barbara, California by Sam Battistone Sr., and Newell Bohnett. The name was a mash-up of the owners names, however it also was a highly derogatory slur used toward African-Americans. The restaurant was a diner-style chain promoting everything from pancakes to steak and more. By the time Sambo’s came to Cape Cod in 1978 there were already loud cries for the company to change its name. It opened near the Airport Rotary in Hyannis in the same building that would eventually hold Denny’s and Pizzeria UNO among others. In 1981 it changed its name to No Place Like Sam’s before closing in late 1982. The company filed for bankruptcy in late 1981 with all but one of the restaurants closing or changing their names within a year. The last Sambo’s, owned by Battistone’s grandson, finally changed its name to ‘Chad’s’ in 2020.                                                                                                                         

  10. Lum’s                                                                     

    Dr. Neil Gale/

    Est. 1956 – around 450 locations at peak                                                                   This classic American cuisine chain was founded in Miami Beach, Florida in 1956. Their signature item was hot dogs steamed in beer. A rapid expansion of the chain led to two Lum’s on Cape Cod opening in Hyannis and Falmouth in 1972. During this same time the chain gained national attention with famed comedian Milton Berle as their spokesperson. Both Cape locations were closed by 1980 as the rapid expansion had stretched the chain thin. By 1982 Lum’s had filed for bankruptcy. The last remaining Lum’s in Bellevue. Nebraska closed in 2017.


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