Wednesday, December 1, 2021

5 Companies You Didn’t Know Had Restaurants

The world of business is a strange one. Businesses that start out risque often find their way into family-friendly venues. Companies that initially started out in one field end up being known for something else decades later. Such is life, and that’s what makes businesses that once had their hands in the restaurant industry so interesting.

Ever wonder whether companies started off as restaurants only to evolve into something else? These former restaurant names might surprise you.

Walgreens Whitefish, Montana Photo credit: Walgreens
Walgreens Whitefish, Montana Photo credit: Walgreens

1-Walgreens

If you told someone you were going to have dinner at Walgreens today, people would look at you a little funny. This massive pharmacy chain is all about bringing health to the forefront, not whipping up dinners.

60-ish years ago, this wasn’t the case. Walgreens used to have diners in their stores for working class people that wanted to pick up a quick lunch or dinner. Their restaurants were named “Wag’s,” and existed up until the 1970s. In 1988, the pharmacy sold all their restaurants to Marriott. Eventually, the chain was phased out of existence.

Howard Johnsons 80079

2-Howard Johnson’s

The name is one Boomers likely recognize, but Millennials might not. This chain is now known as a major hotel group with a trademark orange roof. Back in the 70s, though, this chain was famous for being a major restaurant chain featuring a massive menu and (then-new) clam strips.

A series of bad management mistakes and a growing disinterest in large menu diners ended up sealing this company’s fate. The business split into two, and only the hotel chain survived. Surprising, isn’t it?

Chef Boyardee

This brand name makes us all go back to the days of our childhood, when we’d eat Spaghetti-Os and think it was the best thing ever. Believe it or not, this canned pasta brand is the remnants of one of the first celebrity chefs in history.

That’s right, Chef Boyardee was real.

He had a restaurant, served US presidents, and also was an authority on food. The restaurant shuttered, but the canned pasta remained.

Celeste pizza

Celeste Pizza

You know those microwave pizzas you’d eat after school with friends? The brand they’re under came from the work of legendary Chicago chef Celeste Lizzone. Her restaurant was the talk of the town in the 1930s.

By 1940, people’s demand for her food exceeded what she could make. So, she did the smart thing and started to mass produce her pizzas. The restaurant closed down, but the pizza brand didn’t.

Former chi chi's restaurant

Chi-Chi’s

Chi-Chi’s was one of the first Mexican restaurant chains in the United States, and it was great…for the Midwest. At the restaurant’s peak, hundreds of venues bore the Chi-Chi’s name. Unfortunately, real competition started to pop up and this brand couldn’t take the heat.

After a major disease outbreak tied to Chi-Chi’s erupted in 2008, the restaurant chain died out completely. However, they still are around in the form of home taco kits and terrible jars of salsa.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart is a food critic, writer, and at home culinary enthusiast!

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