Rustler Steak House
Once upon a time, going to a "steakhouse" didn't mean dropping a week's pay at Morton's ( MRT) or The Palm. Middle America flocked to a variety of affordable, family steakhouses. Bonanza, Ponderosa and Sizzler still dot the landscape and, for a time, Massachusetts' Hilltop Steak House had the distinction of being the nation's busiest restaurant. Less durable among its peers was the Rustler Steak House, which thrived as an after-church, Little-League-victory, Uncle-Jim's-birthday-party kind of place for those in the Mid-Atlantic states. The beginning of the end for Rustler came when Marriott ( MAR) bought its parent company, the Gino's fast-food restaurant chain, as part of a move to extend its Roy Rogers chain. That plan fell apart when Marriott re-sold the Gino's chain for $365 million to Hardee's which, in turn, sold off the properties to McDonald's ( MCD), Wendy's ( YUM) and Boston Market. The remaining Rustler steakhouses were sold off by the Marriott and, in 1985, Collins Foods, a subsequent owner, converted them into Sizzlers. A similar fate befell the family-friendly, cafeteria-style chain of York Steak Houses, many of which were found alongside shopping malls. Popular in the '70s and '80s, York was owned by General Mills ( GIS), but most were shuttered by 1989. (The parent company also jettisoned other food chains, including Betty Crocker Tree House and Guadala Harry's, and spun off others such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden as Darden Restaurants ( DRI) in 1995. Today only one York Steak House remains, near the Westland Mall in Columbus, Ohio.