Is this really any surprise? I had only ever gone there a couple of times, but I never had any desire to ever go back. I just hope they have to pay their employees all that they are due, I think just padlocking your doors one night and not telling anyone is a pretty shitty way to close your business. from the Columbus Dispatch:
Cooker closes its doors
Money woes spell end to chain once based in Columbus
Friday, April 30, 2004
Barnet D . Wolf
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Cooker Restaurants, formerly based in Columbus, abruptly closed yesterday, leaving 300 central Ohio workers without jobs.
Employees arrived at the company’s 25 restaurants in Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee yesterday morning to find signs on the doors telling them that the company has been unable to raise the money it needed to continue in operation.
“It was a (business) model that just didn’t work anymore,” said David McKenzie, a spokesman for the company, now based in Nashville, Tenn., where the chain was started in the early 1980s.
The end came quickly for Cooker, which featured madefrom-scratch comfort food, including meatloaf and pot roast.
Insiders said a regional manager appeared at the four Columbus-area restaurants late Wednesday night, removed some items, clamped two padlocks on each door and put up the closing notices.
Each of the central Ohio restaurants — located in Dublin and on Morse Road, S. Hamilton Road and W. Lane Avenue near the Ohio State University campus — employed about 75 full- and part-time workers, McKenzie said.
Cooker also had seven restau rants in the Cleveland-Akron area and two each in the Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo markets. It had four restaurants in Michigan and Tennessee.
The chain suffered from an aging concept and growing competition in the casual-dining industry, said Jerome J. Her- man, president of J.J. Herman & Associates, a Cleveland restaurant real-estate broker.
“The concept really hadn’t been freshened, which was a shame,” he said.
“And the competition has become intense. People now have a lot of choices, so you have to be a sharper operator, more aware of what’s going on around you.”
The intense competition didn’t leave Cooker much room to increase its prices to cover the high cost of making many of its menu items fresh from scratch each day.
At its peak, Cooker operated 65 restaurants in 10 states, including 25 across Ohio. But problems associated with expansion, particularly in Florida, forced the company into bankruptcy in 2001, and it never really recovered.
Cooker was founded by Glenn Cockburn and two other officials of a Tennessee-based Wendy’s franchisee.
A Columbus man, G. Arthur Seelbinder, convinced the trio to make Columbus a test market with an eye toward national expansion.
In 1985, Seelbinder, a mortgage banker and real-estate investor, opened the Cooker on Bethel Road, and it became a huge success.
He sold stock in his company, Columbus Cooker, which eventually acquired the entire Cooker chain.
The headquarters moved to Columbus in the late 1980s.
By 1993, the chain had grown to 20 restaurants, but it also began cutting corners by relying more on institutional foods. Cooker’s signature potroast dinner started to be made with quick-frozen portions in 1994.
A year later, the company moved its offices to Florida, which provided the best growth opportunity, according to Seelbinder and his secondin-command, Phillip L. Pritchard.
The state also was where both men wanted to live.
The expansion was a disaster, and Cockburn, Pritchard and Seelbinder left the chain or were fired by late 1999. New Chief Executive Henry Hillenmeyer moved the headquarters back to Nashville.
A slimmer Cooker emerged from bankruptcy in 2002 after closing many of its restaurants, including the Bethel Road unit. The chain launched a redesign at the Morse Road location, but the makeover wasn’t expanded.
After the bankruptcy, Cooker never had the money to compete or market itself adequately, McKenzie said. When it became apparent Monday that the company was about to run out of funds, its management scurried to find new financing.
The effort failed, and at 8 p.m. Wednesday, “They threw in the towel,” McKenzie said.
Dispatch columnist Doral Chenoweth contributed to this story.