National Chain Restaurants Expected to Re-Open or Expand in 2022

Joel Eisenberg

Over the two last two years, several well known national restaurant chains have either temporarily or permanently closed. For those that have paused business, some are planning a 2022 comeback.

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Author’s Note

This article is fully-attributed in name to several industry-relevant publications and websites, including Alexandra Cass for Mashed.com, Cara Murez for U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Valinksy for CNN, Vanessa Yurkevich for CNN Business, Ben Coley for QSR, Danny Klein for FSR, and Kaley Roberts for Eat This! Not That.

Introduction

I have written extensively for NewsBreak about consumer issues, inclusive of the state of U.S. chain restaurants during our current pandemic. See here for “National Chain Restaurants Expected to Close in 2022,” and here for a recent update to that article.

As we head into March, some previously shuttered restaurants that have undergone successful bankruptcy reorganizations are planning comebacks for later this year, while some others that have survived and thrived are expected to expand.

Last month, Mashed.com published a story on the matter, written by Alexandra Cass and entitled “Chain Restaurants You’re About to See Everywhere in 2022.” From the article (attributions linked): If there's one thing most of us can admit about the past few years, it's that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we eat, as noted by U.S. News & World Report. And, for a lot of people, that's meant eating out a whole lot more. Maybe not dining in at restaurants per se, but the data shows that drive-thrus have seen a major boost in the past two years, and digital sales within the food service industry have skyrocketed across the board, according to CNN.

Which restaurants were most impacted during this period, and which appear to have successfully come through the storm, will be discussed in this article.

Restaurants Re-Opening or Expanding

In the Mashable story above, Shake Shack, Raising Cane’s, Jersey Mike’s, Whataburger and Wendy’s, among others, are listed as continuing their ascent.

Little Caesars, which according to QSR Magazine closed more than 100 locations over the past few years, has announced plans to open more than 200 locations this year. See Ben Coley’s QSR piece here, entitled “How Little Caesars Plans to Bolster Market Share.”

Excerpted from the article: After losing a net of 125 stores from 2018–2020 (note: the majority during the Covid peak of 2020, according to LittleCaesars corporate office) the restaurant, which has about 4,200 units in the U.S., announced a series of development goals this year, including 50 more venues in New England, 35 in St. Louis, at least 15 in Denver, 25 in Charlotte, up to 10 in New Orleans, more than 50 in the Pacific Northwest, at least a dozen in New York, and 30 in Tampa Bay.

The article further discusses Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa Johns, all of which in 2022 appear to have similarly recovered from Covid-19 lows: After shutting down a net of 745 U.S. restaurants in 2020, Pizza Hut—No. 1 in domestic unit count and No. 2 in sales among pizza players—shuttered a net of only five domestic units through the first three quarters. Domino’s, which is No. 1 in U.S. sales and No. 2 in store count, believes it has enough space for 8000 locations across the country. The brand opened a net of 45 domestic outlets in Q3. Papa Johns, the fourth-biggest U.S. pizza brand, is also expediting franchise growth. In September, the company announced an agreement that calls for Sun Holdings to open 100 stores across Texas through 2029, which is the largest domestic deal in the chain’s history.

Financial experts and restaurant historians seem to agree that the restaurant dining experience, which substantially lessened during the height of the pandemic, is on an upswing. No longer generally related to eating outside, with the widespread lessening of Covid restrictions, including mask mandates, indoor eating out is returning to normal patterns.

Danny Klein published an article for FSR Magazine earlier this month which addresses this matter, entitled “Further Proof Dining Out is Making a Comeback in 2022.”

Excerpted from the article: According to Black Box Intelligence, in the week ending January 23, restaurant sales growth improved “significantly,” returning to positive territory for the first time since the period ending December 19. Traffic growth, although still negative, also bumped compared to the previous week. Alongside fast casual and quick service, fine dining turned in the best performance by segment. Dine-in sales growth actually lifted for every corner of the industry, with the biggest gains taking place among full-service brands, Black Box said.

Other outlets such as CNN, which quotes the National Restaurant Association, state that restaurants may never return to pre-pandemic levels. See here for Vanessa Yurkevich article for CNN Business. Conversely, Eat This, Not That! lists several fast food locations primed to make a strong comeback in 2022, including Del Taco and Firehouse Subs, among others. See here Kaley Roberts’ article.

As with so many instances of business recovering during the pandemic era, it appears time will tell.

Conclusion

Though some prognosticators, such as CNN, have reported the restaurant industry will not recover to pre-2020 normal levels, others are more optimistic.

Restaurants such as Souplantation and its sister company, Sweet Tomato, have closed entirely and will not be reopening. Other restaurants that have shuttered individual locations, according to links above, will remain closed while new locations are built.

Some familiar restaurants are certainly making moves to come back bigger than before, while some — as listed in my prior NewsBreak articles — are still considering shuttering permanently or keeping active a lower number of restaurants.

Ultimately, as ever, the public will decide based on where they spend their dollars.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

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