10 Restaurant Chains That Flopped


Burger Chef

McDonald's 1950s success inspired a competitor, the Indianapolis-based General Equipment Manufacturing Company, to try its hand at cooking up even more efficient technology for peddling burgers and shakes. In 1958, General Equipment launched the Burger Chef chain, whose franchises were equipped with automatic conveyor broilers designed to churn out 800 flame-broiled patties with "cook out flavor" per hour, in addition to similarly prolific automated milkshake blending machines [source: Jakle]. By 1972, Burger Chef had grown to 1,200 outlets, second only to McDonald's 1,600 [source: Hurley]. But too-rapid expansion turned out to be Burger Chef's undoing. Faced with declining profits, in 1981 then-owner General Foods sold out to Hardee's. But one Burger Chef legacy remains: the insidious fast-food marketing tactic of packaging a cheap plastic toy with a small hamburger, fries, drink and dessert, which it invented in 1973 with the Fun Meal [source: Sanders].