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This story is part of NRN’s Top 100 special report, a proprietary census ranking the foodservice industry’s largest restaurant chains and companies by sales and unit data, among other metrics.
Achieving success in the restaurant industry is difficult, but maintaining it over time may be harder. The history of the business is littered with chains that blazed briefly and then faded away. Some of those, such as Burgerand Sambo's, had more than 1,000 outlets at one time. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find even one. Even cultural icons, like the orange-roofed Howard Johnson, largely disappeared, making chains such as McDonald's that have grown and prospered over the years even more remarkable.
Once owned by General Foods, fast-feeder Burger Chef had more than 1,200 units at its peak. The chain was sold to Hardee’s parent, Imasco, and all units were either converted to other concepts or were shuttered.
This proprietary quick-service brand competed with McDonald’s and Burger King head-on in the 1960s and early 1970s. In the mid-‘70s the Syracuse, N.Y.-based company became a Burger King franchisee, reflagging most of its hundred-plus units and closing others.