Macaroni Grill
Photo: Macaroni Grill Facebook

When The Avenue – Murfreesboro opened in October 17, 2007, Romano’s Macaroni Grill was one of the first restaurants to open with it. Sitting proudly to the left of the main thoroughfare, it was a hot spot for casual dinners, business lunches, and a good place to take the kids because they were allowed to color with crayons on the butcher paper table covering.

While the Murfreesboro location just closed for good recently, the company’s slow death began more than ten years ago. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, in 2008 sales had already started to slip, and then-owner, Brinker International, was set to sell 80 percent of it to Golden Gate Capital for $131.5 million. At that time, there were 230 locations found all over the country. Then the economy tanked. The sale ended up being for $88 million.

But food trends were changing. Tastes were changing. And the quality of the food did a bit of a slip. Still, it limped along. However, by 2013, Brinker and Golden State had had enough. They sold the whole business to Ignite Restaurant Group for $55 million.

Ignite, owner of the once hot Joe’s Crab Shack, decided to jump into saving the then 210 locations. Not only did it not work, but according to FSR Magazine, it dragged Joe’s Crab Shack and their other restaurant, Brick House Tavern +Tap, down with it. They went into Chapter 11 and sold the business two years later for a measly $8 million to Red Rock Partners. By that time, it was down to 150 units.

Then in 2018, 37 more stores were closed. But by the end of the year, it was out of bankruptcy with 107 locations.

An article on timesunion.com, recently reported that in the last five years the chain closed an additional 60 locations, and was down to 80 restaurants in 22 states at the end of the 2019. But it was in the black according to moneywise.com.

Unfortunately, coronavirus came calling. In early 2020, according to the Fresno Bee, the company began closing stores all over the country. Besides Murfreesboro, they have also closed locations in Fresno, California; Corpus Christi, Texas; Falls Township, Pennsylvania; and Albany, New York.

Phil Romano, who created Fuddruckers (which is also closing down), founded Romano’s Macaroni Grill in Texas in 1988. It is currently headquartered in Denver, and owned by a holding company.

On the Macaroni Grill website, the Murfreesboro location has been removed.  And there are no comments from the company anywhere. The local store telephone number has disappeared from the internet. If you do find it, your call goes to voice mail. But there is still no message that the business has closed. The Franklin, TN location closed in 2017. The website shows one remaining Middle Tennessee location at 517 Opry Mills Dr. in Nashville.

We reached out to the company for more information but have yet to hear back.

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