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Signs Your Favorite Restaurant is About to Close   53 comments

Posted at 4:18 pm in

In general, there will be no explicit advance warning that your favorite place is about to close. There are however, some warning signs you can watch for:

1)The Hours Change

This is a big one. If the place was formerly open on Sunday, but now isn't, if they used to do lunch and supper but now do only lunch, if they used to be open until 10pm, but now close at 8, these are all bad signs.

2)They are Out of Something Mundane

If you go and they are out of something completely mundane and off the wall, like napkins, or salt, that is a very bad sign.

3)The Staffing Level Drops

If your favorite waitress is gone, and she has not been replaced, that is a bad sign. If there was a hostess and now there is not, that is a bad sign.

4)The Owner is Waiting Tables

If the owner just used to circulate occasionally checking to see that everything was OK, but then starts meeting you at the door, seating you and taking your order, that is a very bad sign.

5)They Drop the Sanitation Service for the Restrooms

If the restroom used to be Sanitized by Swisher, but now has a grocery store bottle of liquid soap, that is a bad sign. It's not that it isn't clean, it still is, but you know they can no longer pay to have it cleaned.

6)The Menu Changes

If the items that take more work to prepare, or which fewer people order vanish from the menu, that is another bad sign.

If your favorite place starts to exhibit one or more of these signs, well, enjoy it while you can.

Written by ted on June 13th, 2008

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53 Responses to 'Signs Your Favorite Restaurant is About to Close'

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  1. Check the ketchup bottle lids too.

    jeff g.

    4 Dec 08 at 7:57 pm

  2. Coffee shops that post signs "Now Serving Lunch"


    12 Jan 09 at 7:08 am

  3. Any Restaurant that has been open longer than 6 months that puts out a "Now Open" sign. To add insult to injury, they get a beer or soda company to make sign.


    12 Jan 09 at 7:09 am

  4. The Doors are locked and all the lights are on and no one is there at noon for the lunch croud


    16 Jul 09 at 11:21 am

  5. If you eat fried foods at your favorite restaurant and their flavor starts to change noticeably, it may be a sign that the oil in the fryer is being changed less often. This is a bad sign, and usually indicative of a vicious circle (food quality deteriorates, meaning fewer repeat diners, meaning less revenue, meaning more skimping on expenses, meaning fewer oil changes, meaning food quality deteriorates...)


    14 Apr 10 at 8:58 am

  6. I missed the signs when our favorite Chinese restaurant closed. Number 3 should have tipped me off: The owner started skimping on plastic bags for take out. Before they would give us plastic bags to prevent leaks on the car seat. But the ladies that worked the register began saying the owner was berating them for giving out plastic bags (but they gave them to me anyway). Within a year they were gone.


    24 Jun 10 at 1:17 pm

  7. Excellent list, Ted. I do frequent restaurant reviews on my own blog, and I've spotted many of these.

    One other that I would add would be significant changes to dishes still on the menu. This can either mean A) cutbacks or inability to afford the same ingredients or B) loss of a chef. Both of these can be deadly for a restaurant.


    1 Mar 11 at 8:03 am

  8. My dad's biggie on this one is this: the crowd thins out


    2 Mar 11 at 12:32 am

  9. Numbers 2 and 3 are regulars at Wal Mart, but they're still making millions. LOL

    Miz T

    26 Jul 11 at 2:18 pm

  10. I recently went to a San Jose restaurant I go to frequently and suddenly they are closed on Mondays. Can't be a good sign...


    12 Sep 11 at 6:39 pm

  11. That's sign #1, actually..


    13 Sep 11 at 2:02 am

  12. I know, which why its sad. The irony is they have a big sign out front that open for lunch 7 days a week and $1.99 margaritas Monday-Wednesday. I guess this particular San Jose location isn't doing so hot unless they're all like that now.


    14 Sep 11 at 8:24 am

  13. A sign at the door and brown papered windows. This is the case with Tropical Smoothies in Harbison.


    14 Sep 11 at 8:44 pm

  14. El-Toro Mexican Restaurant is closed on St. Andrews Rd. Closed a few days before Thanksgiving. Formerly: Fast Tracks, Baja, D's Wing's and BB's.


    7 Dec 12 at 4:07 am

  15. Here's a sign; Restaurants that post multiple flimsy real estate signs along the road in fron of their business. Approximately 30 of them saying; we're open, Happy Hour, Dinner Specials. Entertainment, etc. It's like they are yelling for help Mint Julep.


    12 Apr 13 at 6:09 pm

  16. What about, it's address is 806 Saint Andrews Blvd?


    22 Apr 13 at 1:01 am

  17. Check Alphabetical closings and search for 806 -- it's in there 3 or 4 times.


    22 Apr 13 at 2:30 am

  18. Either 1) you order some 'standard' items menu items and the wait staff has to apologize 'sorry we're out' and the place is -not- crowded 2) (even worse) the wait staff has to come back -after- leaving to place the order, apologizing that they've -just- run out.... 3) The wait staff comes out w/ an incorrect dish and apologizes that the cook is {excuse here} (new, a temp, a relative helping out. 4) (major danger sign) the staff feels compelled to explain the shortage by explaining the owners woes/troubles/personal problems (e.g. 'family crisis', 'guy who regularly orders is out of the country') .. you may laugh, but these all happened during the course of one night at the Lexington Luce Cucina Italian Restaurant. ..


    25 Sep 14 at 5:02 pm

  19. Here's I couple of signs I have noticed recently (and not so recently) at a particular semi-national AYCE buffet restaurant that I have been meaning to post for quite some time. These are in no particular order.

    1) Your local All You Can Eat Buffet starts serving regular, non-AYCE entrees and menu items in an attempt to control portions and costs.

    2) The buffet's dessert bar switches to individual portion control servings to reduce costs associated with wastefulness, but understaffing prevent proper stocking of the individual portions on the said bar. (In theory individual portion control is a good idea for sanitary reasons - especially on a dessert bar where parents seem to let their kids have their own way).

    3) The buffet removes their self-serve drinks (not so recent) and condiment / sauce bar (recent) in favor of a wait staff so they can save money by paying their staff sub-standard wages and (supposedly) reduce costs associated with waste. Why would you tip a server for a meal that should be self-service?

    4) Speaking of tips, the buffet in question changes its policy on the paying of tips on your credit card at the pre-paid register. It used to be you could get cash back and you could pay the tip accordingly based on the quality of the service. Now when you add the tip on your card at the register, you do not get get cash back. The full amount of what would have been your cash back is now entirely given to the server as a tip. You have to decide the amount of the tip prior to receiving service. Pre-paying for restaurant service is a good way to ensure customer will receive bad service.

    5) The Friday evening dinner crowd (assumed to be the busiest time of the entire week) resembles that of a 24 hour diner at 3 AM. The staff explains the lack of customers on the local high school football game. Unfortunately, none of the buffet's non-AYCE Buffet competitors seem to be affected by the said football game.

    6) The buffet replaces high quality salad bar items with lower quality artificial / fake ingredients - REAL bacon bits replaced with Betty Crocker Baco's type bacon bits.

    7) In spite of all of the above mentioned signs and changes, the buffet raises its prices 3 times in one year, still expecting herds of people to come breaking the down the doors.

    For the unnamed buffet in question, I have noticed these changes throughout the chain in IN, MD, SC, and WV over the last several years. The changes at the one in Irmo and Lexington were highlighted by the absence of a Friday evening dinner crowd. I suspect the chain is struggling more than it cares to admit and we may someday see a few of their local restaurants on this list.

    James R

    15 May 15 at 6:06 pm

  20. I'm guessing it's Ryan's. I know they got a few low scores on the DHEC rating a few times. I don't particularly like Ryan's, but my hubby does so we used to go there. Last time we went a few years ago, our server had an open wound on her hand, and was sticking her hand directly in the ice so that was it for me. LOL


    15 May 15 at 6:37 pm

  21. @ TahoeChic - Was it that obvious? :)

    We complained to the corporate office about the Lexington one and they gave us two free meals. We decided to try Irmo instead and it was just as bad. I don't want to point any fingers in this particular case because I have noticed problems across the chain in several different states, but I found it interesting that by the time we visited the Irmo location, the manager at Lexington had been moved to Irmo.

    James R

    15 May 15 at 8:11 pm

  22. I haven't been to Ryan's in several years but the last few times I've been they were edible but at the same time it was tasteless side (bordering on insipid).

    On the plus side I do like their ice cream machine though.

    Ryan's went through bankruptcy several years ago and quite a few locations of theirs closed...the only midlands one affected was on US 321 (Charleston Highway).

    Based on the aforementioned experience I'm not surprised it was Ryan's...and frankly TahoeChic's contributions on this don't do anything to help matters...


    15 May 15 at 10:35 pm

  23. Oh and regarding Ryan's and DHEC time when WIS aired restaurant inspections (like WLTX does), the (now closed) Ryan's in the 600 block of St. Andrews Road got a 55% on one of their inspection reports and shortly thereafter my mom was hesitant to eat there because of it...Then Fire Mountain opened up on Bower Parkway and Ryan's on St. Andrews closed and my dad figured out somehow that Fire Mountain and Ryan's were under the same parent company before Fire Mountain was rebranded Ryan's.


    15 May 15 at 10:38 pm

  24. I used to really like Ryan's when I lived in Fayetteville in the mid-1980s. The salad bar was really good, and they had hoop cheddar cheese on it. With the hot yeast rolls, you could make your own grilled cheese sandwiches for free. Well, maybe not quite grilled, but when the rolls were fresh, the cheese would get melty.

    Everytime I've tried it in this millenium, I've been unimpressed.


    16 May 15 at 1:13 am

  25. @Ted - I totally agree with you. Back in the days of the 'family steak houses' Ryan's was my favorite. The one on St. Andrews Rd. (next to where the old Putt-Putt was). was the one that my family and I always visited. They may not have had the best quality steaks at the time but back then no one had heard terms like prime or choice or marbling, but they were still pretty danged good. (especially cooked rare, which I still do today). You got a nice steak, cooked to order, baked potato and a trip to the awesome salad bar. And to top it off you had the soft serve ice cream machine which was killer.


    16 May 15 at 4:17 am

  26. I said this before but I used to work at Quincy's on Rosewood and Piney Grove from 87-91, At that time, I was a teenager and only wanted McDonalds so I rarely ate the food there. Me and the others would just pick at the crumbled Oreos that went on the dessert bar. But we had a great crew at Rosewood from 87-89. We had a great management staff, Mr Wall (who had a heart attack and died in the back of the store, Mr Sanders and Mr Irby. They were all good people. I was 16, 17, & 18 when I worked there and I still say Quincy's (Rosewood) was most fun job I ever had. From the older folks to the kids my age, everyone got along very well.


    16 May 15 at 9:01 am

  27. Buffets are attractive in theory, but tricky to manage. They always seem to be great when they first open, but most go down hill fairly quickly. At least this has been my experience, particularly with Chinese buffets.

    Growing up, the best buffet was Duff's Smorgasbord. Duff's originated in Daytona, but we had one in Indianapolis. They were famous for their (owner invented) rotating server that allowed employees to refill the buffet from inside the kitchen while the customers received the food hot on the other side. Apparently, the movement of the rotating server gave some people motion sickness. Not a good thing when people are eating a lot of food. When Duff's went bankrupt, the Indianapolis location became an Old Country Buffet (Ryan's sister company) and Ryan's opened a location in Greenwood, IN (an Indy south side suburb). We had many family reunions and celebrations there. In the intervening years, my wife an I lived in Morgantown, WV and Baltimore, MD. We frequently ate at the Clarksville, WV and Hagerstown, MD Ryan's, but noticed over time the quality had declined considerably. When we moved to Lexington in 2011, we decided to give Ryan's another try. It was really good at first - always fresh, always stocked, and always clean. I am not sure what happened over the course of the last four years, but the decline in quality reminds me of the decline in Clarksville and Hagerstown locations. I have not been back to the Indianapolis locations, but I wonder if they are having the same problems.

    James R

    16 May 15 at 8:04 pm

  28. Ahh, Duff's. When they first opened in Columbia a bunch of us guys from work would go there at lunch and have a competition on who could eat the most food. I know it sounds stupid but back then we could eat as much of anything we wanted and not worry about gaining an ounce. Oh, the joys of youth. But after a while everything started tasting bland and 'the same'. It was like they had stopped seasoning the foods correctly and they were frying everything in the same oil. A while after this they were gone.....


    17 May 15 at 2:20 am

  29. @Homer - Ha... Haaaa.. I know why they quit seasoning and using the same oil.
    Their profits dropped off substantially. Why?
    You guys were eating them out of house and home.


    17 May 15 at 11:59 am

  30. @Rick - how about this one? And I would swear to it in a court of law.

    One time, years ago, I went to Ryan's with my Mom and Dad and the Phatty O'bese family decided they were going to come in and wreak havoc on the buffet. The 'smallest' child had to have weighed 250. The Mom sat down and there was a cheek hanging off of each side of the chair. The Dad ACTUALLY had to put two chairs together to sit on.

    When they went to the buffet it was like feeding time in the pig sty!! I can only imagine the cold sweat that broke out on the manager's forehead when he witnessed this.

    This story stuck with our family for years. You had to see it to believe it!!


    18 May 15 at 12:06 am

  31. willy_lost_tn.jpg


    18 May 15 at 12:29 am

  32. @ted - That post was perfect!!!!


    18 May 15 at 1:30 am

  33. @Homer - I guess some people just enjoy eating more than anything else. I know someone that works for a janitorial service and every time I see this person they are eating something and tapping on their cell phone, even while working. It's amazing they get anything done at all. This person is always first to hit their cafeteria and the last to leave.


    18 May 15 at 11:47 am

  34. @Homer - how dare you talk about my family that way! LOL. Most of my family are very frequent guests of Lizards Thicket, I can enjoy the Thicket on occasion, but not multiple times a day as they do. I think if you're having to check your blood sugar and take medicine, it might be time to back off of the grease and lard a little. That being said, I do enjoy eating, but everything in moderation.

    I remember Duffs, as a child I was completely and endlessly fascinated by the rotating buffet.


    18 May 15 at 4:20 pm

  35. I know a lady that hates buffets as she feels that you have to "fight for your food."

    I was having lunch with my grandmother Louise (2002/03 timeframe) at the now closed Sticky fingers on Parklane & Two Notch and there were quite a few 'people of size' there that day.

    Our approach to food portions definitely needs an overhaul but I don't know the silver bullet. I mean, we have the Nathan's hot dog eating contest on the 4th of July to see who can eat the most number of hot dogs in 10 minutes. Hwy 55 has a challenge where if you eat 55 oz. of hamburger meat with 4 fixings, fries and a 32 oz. drink in less than 30 minutes, it's free. It's getting to the point that you can get one entrée and split it between 2 people and/or get 2 meals out of it. I wish restaurants offered smaller 'senior' portions for people like my 89-year-old aunt who don't need that much...


    18 May 15 at 6:00 pm

  36. I like imported foods, you olives, pineapples,
    I once ate a date at the drive in.


    18 May 15 at 8:23 pm

  37. Sorry, meant to say "You know, olives, pineapples, imported fruit". I once ate a date. Didn't like it.


    18 May 15 at 8:25 pm

  38. Rim shot!!!!!


    18 May 15 at 9:30 pm

  39. I have never liked buffet, even the Chinese ones. It's just something about 100 people picking at and breathing over my food before it even hits my plate. YUCK!


    19 May 15 at 9:01 am

  40. Not a fan of buffets or cafeterias either one. I find myself unable to escape the feeling of being in a human feedlot.


    19 May 15 at 4:08 pm

  41. At you Jason - I do not know why your last comment made me think of the cafeteria at my grade school back in the 1960's, but for some reason it did.
    I went to Burnside Elementary, the cafeteria had a black lady that we knew as Ms. Sally. She was the boss.
    There were six people that worked in the "Lunch Room" as we called it, with Ms. Sally and they cooked everything from scratch.
    Nothing came out of a can and nothing was "Shipped" in from a central location.
    The vegies were fresh, we had home made biscuits and the main dish of meat was seasoned as any southerner would enjoy.
    I remember when once a year the school would allow parents to come in and eat lunch with their kids, all the parents in my neighborhood would be there and they would go on and on about how good the food was and no one would miss the opportunity to eat there when they could. I do not know what happened to Ms. Sally and her crew but they certainly should have gone on to have their own restaurant.
    Now a days, when my son was going through grade school my Wife and I ate there one time. Everything was shipped in from a central location and the people in the lunch room only unpacked it, put it in pans on a portable buffet stand and served it. It (excuse me) sucked. I'd bet a million bucks NONE of them could hold a candle to Ms. Sally and her cooks.


    19 May 15 at 5:30 pm

  42. My Grandma and aunt were cooks at Irmo back in the 50's. The cafeteria staff consisted of them and one other lady that, like Rick said, made everything from scratch. They had all retired by the time I started school but they had been replaced by another crew of older ladies that were just as good of cooks as Grandma. The two things I most looked forward to on the menu was the scratch made banana pudding and cinnamon buns that would put Cinabon to shame. I have my Grandma's recipe for those two treats and every time I make them the memories come flooding back.

    Like Rick said, today's cafeterias are just like fast food joints. All of the food is prepared ahead of time, shipped in by truck and simply heated before serving. Even when I was in high school, even though they still had the full meal line they also had the hamburger and hot dog bar. Guess which line was the longest. And they were terrible on top of it. That's why a lot of us kids snuck off campus at lunch and went to BK or Hardee's


    20 May 15 at 12:19 am

  43. @Jason - I might as well toss out my Dad's sentiments on cafeterias again. He hated them with a passion. He always said, "I feel like a hog being led to the trough". But, he never had a problem with buffets since they were 'all you can eat'.


    20 May 15 at 12:22 am

  44. I remember USC's food service when ARA ran it. The would cook up burgers and keep them in a pot of near boiling water. When someone actually ordered one, they would take it out, press it down some to squeeze out some of the water and then put it back on the griddle. Needless to say, most of the taste escaped long before burger met bun.

    I was a really picky kid, so I didn't much like the elementary cafetiria food (and it didn't help that they had a highly idiosyncratic definition for "submarine sandwich" and "pizza pie"), but everybody liked the lunch ladies.


    20 May 15 at 12:30 am

  45. As S&S (Richland Mall) and Picadilly (both Dutch Square and subsequently Columbia Place Mall) closed (links available via Alphabetical Closings list at top) quite a few people here indicated sentiments of cafeterias associated with visits from elderly relatives...I think that as those relatives passed on the customer base passed on with it. Plus some felt that they got enough of cafeteria food during the week. That combination likely played a role in what did them in.

    I liked most of the Elementary School cafeteria food and can still remember the belt system they came out on but never knew most of most of the lunch ladies at my school as most of them were behind the scenes except for the monitors and cashier. During my time in HS the cafeteria was redone to have a 'food court' concept.

    Sodexo runs USC's food service now and the Russell Hosue did have a decent variety that I enjoyed when I went there but one of my classmates did a documentary featuring people who were colored unimpressed by Sodexo...


    20 May 15 at 12:49 am

  46. @ted - they STILL do that at the cafeteria at work!! Talk about a hockey puck on a bun. About a year ago they had to shut down the fixings bar at work as a few people got sick.

    The 'sub sandwich' in high school was a piece of bologna and American cheese on a bun with lettuce, tomato and a packet of mustard and mayo. Yummy!!


    20 May 15 at 1:36 am

  47. @Andrew - the conveyer belt system you mention at the school cafeterias is just like what we have commented about Duff's. You never knew what was coming out next. If it looked decent, you grabbed it. If not, Lord knows how long that plate had revolved around the belt.


    20 May 15 at 1:40 am

  48. I know most conveyor belts are a simple straight line with a rubber platform and this wasn't like that at all.

    It had little plastic wedges that as the system ran, they'd revolve around a track that was elliptical-shaped. One one end the ladies would prepare trays of the entree and place them on the belt. Then we would be on the other side and as the trays passed by, people would pick them up. At the top of the machinery they'd have 'heat lamps' to keep them warm. Then we'd carry our trays down an 'L' shaped table that would have different side items you could get.


    20 May 15 at 12:09 pm

  49. I did not like it when my favorite restaurant in Geraldine, Alabama which was named, The Dawg House Cafe.

    Broc Walker

    28 May 15 at 1:31 pm

  50. It closed

    Broc Walker

    28 May 15 at 1:31 pm

  51. But it is now home to Mrs. Ella's Restaurant which opened on September 4, 2014

    Broc Walker

    28 May 15 at 1:33 pm

  52. If the lease amount gets changed and instead of paying it, they just close. Ms. B's in West Columbia apparently had this happen to them.

    scott w

    8 Jul 15 at 10:30 am

  53. ^^ increase in lease rate is a common reason for closures in the world of commercial real estate...


    8 Jul 15 at 11:36 pm

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