10 Restaurant Chains That Flopped


White Tower

White Castle, which in 1921 became the nation's first fast-food hamburger chain, introduced such innovations as the steam-cooked square, the onion-laden hamburger, the industrial-strength spatula and a distinctive gleaming white exterior. They all worked so well that when Milwaukee dance hall operator John E. Saxe and his son Thomas decided to launch a competing chain in Milwaukee five years later, they slavishly copied White Castle, down to the fake turrets on their restaurants, and adopted the sound-alike name White Tower. They even copied White Castle's "Buy 'em by the sack" advertising slogan, with "Take Home a Bagful." By the early 1930s, there were more than 120 White Towers in cities ranging from Minneapolis to Washington, D.C. White Castle responded with lawsuits, which White Tower eventually settled by agreeing to pay $82,000 and change its architecture from fake medieval to an updated Art Deco look [source: Hogan]. White Tower grew to 230 restaurants at its peak in the 1950s, but then gradually faded away, as customers moved away from its locations in declining urban areas. The last surviving White Tower franchise in Toledo shut down in 2004 [source: Reindl].