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6 Restaurant Chains That Are Making a Comeback in 2024

Things have started to turn around for these once-struggling dining chains.

From fan-favorite Chick-fil-A to ultra-popular Wingstop, many of America's most iconic restaurant chains continue to thrive year after year. Others, however, aren't nearly as fortunate as they contend with lagging sales, declines in guest traffic, and store closures. Red Lobster was the latest chain to fall victim to these woes, shuttering dozens of restaurants throughout the United States and declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy after struggling with high costs and operating losses.

But if the past has taught us anything, declining sales and popularity don't necessarily mean that a chain is doomed. In fact, some restaurant brands are able to mount successful comebacks by bringing in new leadership, implementing smart recovery strategies, and making other tactical decisions to improve their fortunes in the long term.

This year, several struggling chains have already begun to rise from the ashes and show strong signs of resurgence thanks to these types of efforts. Read on to learn about all the restaurant chains that have been making a comeback in 2024—and what else the future may have in store for them.

Sweet Tomatoes

Sweet Tomatoes exterior
Tada Images / Shutterstock

Sweet Tomatoes customers never truly stopped grieving the salad buffet chain's demise after it went out of business during the COVID-19 pandemic. And in April 2024, fans finally got the news they'd been waiting for since 2020.

A shuttered Sweet Tomatoes location in Tucson, Ariz., officially reopened its doors on April 1 to plenty of fanfare. Pictures posted on social media at the time showed long lines of customers waiting to enter the restaurant, which is located at 6202 East Broadway Blvd.

The restaurant's interior was revamped with new colors and a new look, but many of Sweet Tomatoes' classic food and drink options are still available to customers. The returning offerings include Joan's Broccoli Madness salad, chicken noodle soup, Caesar salad, soft serve, strawberry lemonade, and a salad bar filled with fresh-cut ingredients.

In great news for Sweet Tomatoes fans outside of Tucson, COO Mike Malone told Restaurant Business Magazine in February that the chain might expand to even more markets in the future.

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Burger King

Burger King exterior
Joseph Hendrickson / Shutterstock

Burger King has faced its fair share of challenges in recent years between lagging sales, franchisee bankruptcies, hundreds of annual store closures, and the loss of its title as America's second-largest burger chain to Wendy's. However, the worst of these struggles could very well be behind Burger King now.

After shuttering close to 300 restaurants throughout 2023 to eliminate underperforming stores from its system, Burger King is expected to close fewer restaurants in 2024.

"We believe most of these closures are behind us and expect a more normalized level of closure activity in 2024," Josh Kobza, CEO of Burger King parent company Restaurant Brands International, said during a February earnings call.

The chain has also been working to revitalize its business through a $400 million investment campaign called "Reclaim the Flame." This sweeping initiative includes modernizing the Burger King brand, enhancing its kitchens, remodeling hundreds of restaurants, developing innovative new menu items, and ramping up advertising. Recent earnings data indicates that these efforts are starting to pay off.

Burger King's same-store sales increased 3.8% in the first quarter of 2024, while system-wide sales increased by 2.6%. Kobza said during an April earnings call that the investment campaign "is driving strong early results and positioning us well to outperform in any consumer environment."

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Friendly's restaurant exterior
Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock

Friendly's footprint—like Burger King's—has shrunk significantly in recent years amid plummeting sales and multiple bankruptcies. The family dining chain currently operates around 100 restaurants throughout the East Coast, a far cry from the 500 locations it once boasted in its heyday, according to Restaurant Business Magazine. It shuttered about six locations in 2023 alone amid an 8.1% decline in systemwide sales.

However, the spate of extensive Friendly's closures may finally be coming to an end. Sherif Mityas, CEO of Friendly's parent company Brix Holdings, recently told Restaurant Business Magazine that the brand only expects to shutter around three more stores due to leases not being renewed or the restaurants themselves no longer being feasible. Friendly's has also started to open locations again with the recent debut of a store in Orlando, Fla.—and it expects to open three to five additional units next year amid its comeback.

Corner Bakery

Corner Bakery

Corner Bakery's future looked uncertain when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2023, a move meant to keep it in business while it reorganized tens of millions of dollars in debt. A little over a year later, things are starting to look up for the bakery-café chain.

The restaurant and real estate operator SSCP Management bought Corner Bakery out of bankruptcy just a few months after the filing last year. The company began revamping the Corner Bakery business soon after by bringing in a new group of executives to run the company, improving employee training programs, and enlisting the marketing agency Champion to help promote the brand, among other initiatives.

These comeback efforts have already begun to pay off. In a February 2024 update, Corner Bakery announced that average unit volumes (the sales each individual store sees on average) had increased by $200,000 in the previous six months. Looking ahead, the company plans to remodel most of its corporate-owned locations to improve the dining experience and open five to seven new restaurants in 2024.

"Our plan from Day One was to invest back into the business in virtually every area, from developing and providing growth opportunities to our people to ensuring that our cafes are refreshed and inviting to our guests," SSCP President and Corner Bakery Cafe CEO Chris Dharod said in a February statement. "We see so much potential for the Corner Bakery Cafe brand, and we're thrilled that our efforts are already paying dividends and have laid a strong foundation for growth in the year ahead."

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Steak and Ale

Wyndham hotel Steak and Ale exterior
Steak and Ale's Comeback / Facebook

Roughly 16 years after Steak and Ale filed for bankruptcy and closed all locations amid declining popularity, the once-beloved steakhouse chain is slated to make a comeback and reopen within the next couple of months.

News initially emerged in early 2023 that parent company Legendary Restaurant Brands planned to revive the Steak and Ale brand, which was best known for its steaks, salad bar, beer, wine, and Tudor-style decor. Then, in an October 2023 interview, Legendary Restaurant Brands CEO Paul Mangiamele revealed to FSR Magazine that the company planned to open a new Steak and Ale location in a Wyndham hotel on Nicollet Avenue in Burnsville, Minn. Recent updates posted on the Steak and Ale Facebook page show that the soft opening is planned for July 2024.

The restaurant will be operated by a franchisee, span 6,000 square feet, and seat roughly 220 customers, according to FSR. Customers who visit the new location should expect to see many of the classic features they already know and love, like the original logo, salad bar, and Tudor-style decor. Old favorites like the Kensington Club, Hawaiian Chicken, Steak Oscar, and baby back ribs will also be featured on the menu.

The franchisee opening the Wyndham hotel location scored a deal to develop 15 Steak and Ale locations in the Midwest, FSR previously reported. So, fans in the region should keep an eye out for even more openings in the future.

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Clover Food Lab

Clover Food Lab
Michael Moloney / Shutterstock

The Massachusetts dining scene took a major blow last fall when the Boston-based Clover Food Lab declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to lagging sales and insufficient financing. But, as of spring 2024, Clover's bankruptcy days are officially behind it.

The chain—known for serving veggie-forward foods made with seasonal ingredients—exited bankruptcy this past April and is already planning to start growing again. Clover was left with 13 locations after closing two restaurants during the bankruptcy process. But, in the next five years, it hopes to expand to 60 restaurants throughout New England, Restaurant Business Magazine reported.

Clover will focus on expanding in urban spaces and university areas. It's also planning to open more smaller-format stores as it grows.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe