Philadelphia, PA

What happened to Checkers? 9 out of 10 Philly Checkers Locations Closed

Teressa P.

The mystery of a Philly fast-food favorite

If you drive through West, Southwest, North, and Northeast Philadelphia you’ll notice most of the Checker’s restaurants are closed and boarded up. At first, I thought this was a fluke, but according to the Checker’s website, 9 out of their 10 locations in the city are closed. Only the Aramingo Avenue store is open:
Store ListingCheckers website

The Philadelphia Inquirer said that the Broad and Girard store (and other fast-food restaurants) have closed due to housing construction and high rents that come with the gentrification of downtown aka Center City, and parts of North Philly (which has been renamed Brewerytown).

But what about the other locations?

Based on the steady stream of customers, Checkers seemed like a Philly favorite. Every time I visited a location, they were busy, and the staff was friendly. I loved the 2-sided drive-thru model and my family and I really enjoyed their classic burgers, milkshakes, and ice cream. It was a once-a-month, Friday night treat for years.

The Checker’s franchise has had some changes since they came to Philadelphia in the 1990’s. The Philadelphia Inquirer and other news outlets reported expansion plans in 2019 and again in 2021 - following the 2017 acquisition, by Oak Hill Capital. To clarify, the investment group purchased the whole company - not just the Philadelphia stores.

I remember when Checkers was owned by the late restauranteur, La-Van Hawkins in the 90s. Mr. Hawkins’ commitment to bringing good food and jobs to inner cities were top stories. The franchise even survived his 2005 scandal.

Restaurant Business Online, said that Checkers “was considered a candidate for bankruptcy…[but a 2021 sales surge garnered] a $20 million cash injection from its private equity owner and new growth initiatives.”

So again,- as a customer, foodie and concerned community member – what’s going on with Checkers in Philly? Covid hit the restaurant industry hard, but it isn’t a surprise that CNN reported that drive-thru sales soared since the pandemic.

Possible Solutions

I hope they come back, but if they don’t, they could become incubator space for food start-ups. Their drive -thru’s are in some of the busiest and well-populated areas in Philadelphia. Not to mention, the restaurants are small enough to manage with a small, socially distanced staff. It would be a win-win for small communities and pop-ups.

The stores could also be a great space for:

  • Small farmer's markets that also offer hot food for sale or give away
  • Co-op satellite spaces that also serve hot food or for pre-ordered pick up only
  • Mini markets in food deserts that offer fresh and quick, healthy food choices
  • Food and supply give away site

These are just a few solutions and opportunities to utilize empty space and equipment in areas that need more healthy food and community engagement options.

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My mission is to share informative stories with heart and humor about life through an intersectional lens.

Philadelphia, PA

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