Tampa, Florida-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants are disappearing from intown neighborhoods and thus far being replaced by nothing. As many of you know, Checker's pad sites are often small as few feature any inside dining. Most Checkers feature a (twin) drive-thru and a walk up counter. I say twin drive-thru, but in my earlier years I 'd dine at Checkers with some frequency and the twin seemed like a joke, as basically never were both lanes open.
This is not a normal post for me, but I noticed a number of them close lately, and thought I'd share my thoughts. Locations on Peachtree (Industrial) Boulevard in Chamblee, Buford Highway in Chamblee and North Druid Hills at Lawrenceville Highway in (greater) Decatur have all closed over the past two years and more closures may be on the way. I spoke with a representative from Checkers corporate office in 2009 and was told then that they see their opportunity for growth with "in-line" locations, and would be prioritizing their expansion of that model ahead of free-standing units or "FSUs."
In 2009, Checkers opened a restaurant in Lenox Square's food court and later opened an in-line location on Broad Street, near Georgia State University. Shortly after this opening in late 2009, another Checkers opened in Peachtree Center's food court and another replaced what had previously been a McDonald's in the food court at the Mall of Georgia.
I often myself wonder what would make an ideal tenant in a given location. The Buford Highway location for instance, is at a major intersection, Buford Highway at Clairmont Road. This site is decently sized but not nearly enough for a typical FSU of most eateries. Additionally, years ago, an adjacent street was sealed off, limited access to the restaurant. Also, across the street sits a far more appealing out-parcel in the recently vacated El Pollo Loco restaurant. EPL's Chamblee location was built in 2008 and closed in September. The EPL features both a drive-thru and plenty of inside dining. The building is just over three years old, and while unique to the EPL brand, could surely be utilized for another concept or be retrofitted to fit the needs of another concept.
The location at Lawrenceville-Highway and North Druid Hills is probably the most appealing of the locations. It's by far the largest, and has access from both Lawrenceville Hwy and North Druid Hills. In addition, the parcel is a stone's throw from Highway 78. It's located adjacent to a drive-thru only Chick-fil-A and a McDonald's. I see this location as ideal for an expanding fast food chain, although given its proximity to Chick-fil-A, Zaxby's is unlikely. The site sits in front of North DeKalb Mall, an aging mall that has lost nearly all of its national retailers and restaurants. One of Chick-fil-A's earliest mall expansions was within this mall, but even it closed over a year ago. A Costco has long been rumored to open either as part of, or in some way connected to the mall, but that plan seems permanently shelved at this point. Costco has said in the past that their new TOWN Brookhaven store is a replacement for what they had hoped to open at North Dekalb.
The location on Peachtree Boulevard has been vacant the longest, over a year if I were to guess. It's one of the most unappealing spaces from what I can see. It's parcel is not completely level and would likely need to be graded and leveled for any future use. It is located across the street from Chamblee Plaza, an aging and largely vacant shopping center. On the plus side, just north of Checkers site on the same side of the road, McDonald's operates a renovated restaurant and within Chamblee Plaza, IHOP opened last month in a former Hardee's restaurant. Also, Chick-fil-A renovated their existing outparcel space in Chamblee Plaza this past February.