This Once-Popular Family Restaurant and Bakery Chain Is Quietly Disappearing
It's no secret that family restaurants were hard hit by the pandemic. Friendly's was edged into bankruptcy in late 2020 and Denny's lost an incredible 60% of its customers in 2021. Even the Cheesecake Factory took a tumble, struggling to pay its rent.
But amidst all of the commotion in the past two years, you might have missed some important developments at one of America's longest-running family chains: Marie Callender's. The beloved, California-based restaurant and bakery chain seems to be disappearing, with fewer than thirty locations remaining open today.
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California publications have been taking note of Marie Callender's pandemic-hastened decline, with the Los Angeles Times reporting the closure of a Sherman Oaks location in late 2021, and The Mercury News confirming a San Jose shuttering just a few weeks ago.
For other family restaurant chains, single-unit closures might not be a headline-worthy event. But for Marie Callender's, it's big news: when a chain has just a few dozen restaurants to its name, every unit counts.
According to Marie Callender's online directory, there are only 28 restaurants remaining, spread across California and Utah. That's down from 57 locations in 2017, and 138 in 2006. But even the current count is probably on the generous side, as the directory still lists the San Jose location as open.
Marie Callender's sales have been flagging, too. The chain has been losing business steadily since at least 2015, when Restaurant Business reported a 3.6% decline in systemwide sales. That rate has been picking up over the years, steepening to 25.2% in 2019.
Loss of revenue that year might have been related to the chain's split from sister company Perkins Restaurant & Bakery. The two brands originally merged in 2006, but separated for good in 2019, following two bankruptcies and a ruinous sale of the Marie Callender's trademark to holding company Conagra in 2011.
After the separation from Perkins, Marie Callender's had trouble finding a buyer: devalued by the loss of its trademark ownership, the chain was ultimately sold for a fraction of its value to a company called Marie Callender's Inc, in 2019.
If you're a fan of Marie Callender's restaurants—and their fresh-baked pies—now might be the time to plan a trip to your nearest location. With store closures steadily increasing, and sales showing no signs of recovery, there's no telling how much longer this beloved chain will be around.
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