Photo: J. Michael Jones

Three fast-food chains closed more restaurants than they opened in 2018, and I refuse to follow that statement with “and you’ll never guess what they are!” or “and the list will shock you!” because you could, and it won’t. One of the three was Papa John’s, beleaguered purveyor of garlic sauce and earnest pleas for your business. If Papa John’s 2018-in-review turned out to be anything other than a swirling toilet, that would be shocking.

Papa John’s aside, USA Today reports the other two fast-food chains that struggled this year were Jack In The Box and Subway, which have 14 fewer and about 500 fewer U.S. restaurants in North America, respectively, than they did last year. Papa John’s closed 85 stores this year. Closing restaurants can be a savvy business maneuver to improve overall profitability, especially for Jack In The Box and Papa John’s, which are both on the market looking for new company owners.

Subway’s high number of closures this year follows an even rougher 2017, in which the company shuttered more than 900 locations. It’s still the largest restaurant chain in the world by far, with 44,000 restaurants to McDonald’s 14,000, per USA Today. In another notable move this year, Subway also did away with its signature $5 footlongs after franchisees complained the promotion was unprofitable. Rough year, Subway, rough year.

The restaurant picture was also rough for non-fast-food chains like Applebee’s and IHOP, which both closed dozens of locations this year, as well as Chipotle—classified as “fast-casual,” not fast food, in this analysis—which boarded up 55 locations. Looks like we’re not the only ones more than ready to throw 2018 into the incinerator.

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