Monday, February 14, 2011

Fatburger's Presence in Atlanta Grows Thin

Fatburger's original Atlanta location has closed. Having opened in a former KFC within Buckhead Crossing in 2005, the restaurant closed sometime during the first week of February. The fact that its closure went unnoticed is a testament to how poorly it was doing. The restaurant's closure was confirmed by its sister location on Windy Hill as no indication of the closure could be found on site. My apologies for excluding it from the most recent DeathWatch as it was rightfully suggested this past December and somehow slipped through the cracks. (Fuze Burger was included and has since closed)

Former NFL star Willie Anderson owned the two Fatburger locations in Atlanta and had development rights for as many as 10 in the metro area. Anderson is not the only celebrity to either be an owner or part owner of Fatburger franchises. Actress Queen Latifah, basketball great Magic Johnson, former talk show host Montel Williams and rappers Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and E-40 all have had current or past ownership stakes in franchised Fatburger locations. Locations opened by E-40 in San Francisco and Kanye West in Orland Park in Chicago have both since closed. West had development rights for up to 10 locations in Chicago but only 2 opened, and now only the Beverly location is still in operation.

Fatburger started in Los Angeles as "Mr. Fatburger," and dates back to 1947, though the name became simply Fatburger in 1952. The chain was founded by Lovie Yancey, and although she sold a majority stake in the company in 1990, she continued to be involved in operations until her death in early 2008. The chain filed for bankruptcy the following year and its troubles seem to have gotten worse thereafter. There is no definitive connection, but I think Ms. Yancey's absence from the company may very well have played a role in the deterioration of the business. Strangely, the corporate website lists new locations coming soon under two headings, "Fall 2009" and "Winter 2009" so clearly the website has not been kept up to date. (The Lindbergh location is listed as open and operating)

Last year U.S. Cafe opened a new location on street level of the Lindbergh Vista apartments. While they too are not doing especially well, I think they played a part in Fatburger's demise. Additionally, FLIP Burger opened a couple miles north on Piedmont at Tuxedo Festival and Grindhouse Killer Burgers is preparing to open a few miles south on Piedmont. Farm Burger is also looking to open on Piedmont near Tower Place. While I'm sure the closure was not caused by any one issue, the increased new and upcoming competition of locally owned chains was surely a factor.

The name Fatburger can't be as appealing today as it was back in the 50s, and perhaps that too has led to the chain falling out of popularity. Many readers have noted over the years how much they'd love California-based In-N-Out Burger in the area, but it remains a west-coast only chain, located in 5 states. Known as "The Last Great Hamburger Stand," Fatburger may soon find that being the last anything is not a good thing.

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13 comments:

randy732 said...

I'm not sure I like the new layout of your website..

That aside, there's also a Five Guys in Lindbergh as well. For most people, that's within walking distance of Marta or nearby office buildings, whereas FatBurger is kindof a random little shopping center that isn't the most pedestrian friendly for a concept that should gear towards that crowd.

Atlantan99 said...

Hey Randy,

Honestly, the layout may change a little again, a lil contrast perhaps. The priority was getting dates to appear with each post and have the easy share buttons, both of which were done successfully.

Yes, you are right, I totally goofed and there is a Five Guys in the area as well. Within walking distance of both the MARTA station, MARTA HQ and the AT&T building. Much better location. Any idea what might be well suited for the Fatburger space, or for that matter the Hot Stix near Five Guys?

Anonymous said...

Can you find out information on the name change of Rama 5 of Thailand to Thai Silk? Wondering what is going on there...

Anonymous said...

That place was so poorly run....I went in there once after it first opened, and swore I would never go back.

SB said...

No loss -- I went there once and the service was incredibly slow despite 3 people in the store. That shopping center is pretty well occupied so I'm sure they'll find some good use for the space.

amanda said...

I live near this place and didn't even notice until last Wednesday that it wasn't even open as I walked by at 12:30 and it was completely dark. Never went there since I never heard any good things about it.

That US Cafe also recently mailed every single person in my apartment complex a postcard for a free burger "no strings attached" so I'm sure things aren't going so well there either.

Uncle Zev said...

five guys > fat burger


'nuff said

Anonymous said...

Hmm this is interesting. I don't think the chain is doing poorly. I know they are expanding into Dallas.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon,

Having already filed for bankruptcy once and now with yet another closure on their hands, I think it's safe to say they are not doing well. Perhaps on the WC they continue to be popular but even with celeb franchisees like Kanye and E-40 , they are still closings.

thejohnp said...

I doubt the Windy Hill location is going to last either. It is impossible to get to with all the traffic on the road and there's very little parking in the center.

Overall the food is good, but a bit pricey for what you get. And I agree with others that Five Guys was their death knell. FG food is much better and reasonably priced.

Of course, I'm a bigger fan of Cozy Burger Town in Decatur. A mom & pop that has Five Guys beat.

And I like how the layout is taking shape. My 2cents.

Tres said...

Well, that sucks. I guess I'm in the minority to say that I actually liked this place. Five Guys does have the better burgers though. I have to say that Fatburger's one-up over Five Guys is that they serve milk shakes and Five Guys doesn't, and I wonder why. I mean, what's a burger and fries joint without milkshakes?

Tina said...

I am not happy about this because I purchased a living socials coupon for fatburger and when I went to use it they were closed. I live in Forest Park and I don't want to go to the other location. This really sucks!

Robbie Honerkamp said...

My money is on the Windy Hill location closing in the next six months too. I work nearby and have been there for lunch a few times - the place doesn't do very much business at lunch at all. I'm amazed they can stay open.