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.