The chain was founded in 2002 by Jimmy Buffett and OSI Partners.
The final Cheeseburger in Paradise has closed its doors as parent company Luby’s continues to potentially wind down business operations.
On its website, the brand posted, “Thank you for supporting Cheeseburger in Paradise. All of our restaurant locations are now permanently closed.” The lone unit, in Secaucus, New Jersey, shut down operations in March due to the COVID pandemic.
The closure comes on the heels of Luby’s announcement in September that it was considering dissolving the company and liquidating assets if it couldn't find a buyer. The restaurant group, which also includes Luby’s Cafeterias and Fuddruckers, as well as a culinary service, tried to sell during the summer, but was unsuccessful. The liquidation move, if followed through, is expected to generate between $92 million and $123 million.
The first Cheeseburger in Paradise opened 2002 in Indianapolis. It was co-owned by Jimmy Buffett, whose famous song inspired the restaurant, and OSI Restaurant Partners (now Bloomin’ Brands). In 2009, Cheeseburger in Paradise was taken over by Paradise Restaurant Group, LLC.
In 2012, Luby’s purchased the brand for $11 million; there were 23 locations across 14 states. Even then, the brand faced financial issues. Lisa Lee, vice president of brand and marketing strategy for Luby's Fuddruckers Restaurants, told the North Jersey Record at the time that Cheeseburger in Paradise was “already challenged when we purchased it in 2012 and continued to face headwinds since. We had to make a tough decision to close underperforming locations.”
At peak in 2006, the concept spread to 38 units across 17 states.
By August 2015, there were eight Cheeseburger in Paradise units. By July 2018, there were three locations remaining. An Indianapolis store closed in August of that year and an Omaha, Nebraska, unit shuttered in October. During Luby’s Q1 2019 earnings call, CEO Chris Pappas referred to the last Cheeseburger in Paradise as profitable and said it wasn’t dragging on the P&L. Since then, Luby’s has continued to face worsening sales and the global pandemic only made matters worse.
Luby’s restaurant sales declined 78.9 percent in Q3. Luby’s saw a 73.6 percent plummet while Fuddruckers figures decreased 90.8 percent. The brand posted a net loss of $25 million, compared to a loss of $5.3 million in the year-ago period. The chain ended Q3 with 108 corporate restaurants—76 Luby’s Cafeterias, 31 Fuddruckers, and a Cheeseburger in Paradise. Three Luby’s and 13 Fuddruckers had permanently closed year-to-date at that point.