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This Iconic, Nearly Extinct Fast-Food Chain Is Planning a Comeback

Break out the malted vinegar.
FACT CHECKED BY Mura Dominko

Many of America's favorite restaurant chains from the 1970s have fallen by the wayside, living on only in our memories, books, TV shows, and movies. And while the days of Howard Johnson's or the Burger Chef are forever behind us, some beloved fast-food chains of yesteryear still might have a bright future ahead. One such relic of that era has recently announced a comeback. Nathan's Famous recently said it's planning to revive the iconic fish-and-chips chain Arthur Treacher's.

According to QSR Magazine, Arthur Treacher's will be relaunched as a ghost kitchen, with plans to open physical restaurants down the line. A brief refresher—a ghost kitchen is a restaurant without a dining room, one that exists exclusively on online ordering platforms, available only for delivery (or sometimes for delivery and pickup). So, when the beloved chain comes back, you won't actually be able to visit the restaurant at first.

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The once widespread chain, which is credited with bringing authentic-style fish and chips to the American fast-food scene, had as many as 800 restaurants during its peak but counted only seven (across New York and Ohio) two years ago. However, parent company Nathan's Famous offers the original Treacher's items at several of their restaurants. The revival will keep some of those fan-favorites while also adding new ones.

"We're using the same breading that everyone loves. That same hand-batter, crispy golden batter. We'll have the same hush puppies. But we're upgrading all of the proteins," Nathan's Famous SVP of restaurants James Walker told QSR. "We're adding more shrimp to the menu. We're really upscaling the quality, but keeping those same flavors and appearance that people love about the brand."

For those who grew up in a time without Arthur Treacher's, here's a brief history of the chain. The first of its restaurants opened in Columbus, Ohio in 1969 (with the help of Wendy's founder Dave Thomas). The restaurant was named after British actor Arthur Treacher, best known for playing a number of butler and valet roles in 1930s films. The chain expanded in the first half of the 1970s, reaching hundreds of locations, but it ended up filing for bankruptcy before the 1980s.

While the timeline for its return is still under wraps, experts say it could happen quickly. Fans can look forward to Fish n' Chips Sandwiches, Captain's Dinners, and the Boom Boom Shrimp Platters in the near future.

For more fast-food nostalgia, be sure to check out these 24 Forgotten Fast-Food Restaurants. And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more
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