Rubio’s Coastal Grill closed 48 locations in California on May 31, according to multiple media reports.

The fast casual told local TV stations that the closures resulted from a “thorough review of its operations and the current business climate.” After the shutdowns, Rubio’s is left with 86 units in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

The brand also noted the action was because of the “rising cost of doing business.” At the beginning of April, California’s new fast-food wage law officially raised the minimum wage to $20 per hour for fast-food employees working at chains with 60 unit or more nationwide. In response, several quick-service chains have instituted price increases to keep up with the higher labor expenses.

Rubio’s decision also comes about three and a half years after it declared bankruptcy. At the time, the brand had 167 locations and was saddled with $82.3 million in debt. In the wake of the COVID crisis, roughly 45 percent of the restaurant support center and field management were furloughed as well as more than 1,400 restaurant workers. Additionally, 26 underperforming units permanently shut down between May and June 2020. In addition to the pandemic, Rubio’s cited the saturation of the fast-casual market, minimum wage increases, and the growth of off-premises as factors that contributed to the bankruptcy.

Ralph Rubio cofounded Rubio’s in 1983, beginning with a walk-up stand in San Diego. The brand went public in 1999, but was acquired by Mill Road in 2010 for $91 million and taken private. The brand has gone through several iterations over the years, changing from “Rubio’s, Home of the Fish Taco” to “Rubio’s Baja Grill” to “Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill” and finally to “Rubio’s Coastal Grill” in 2014.

Rubio’s is one of several quick-service chains noticeably struggling in the post-COVID era. Others have been forced to declare bankruptcy in 2024, including Tijuana Flats, a 17-unit Popeye’s franchisee, Sticky’s Finer Joint, Oberweis Dairy, and Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen.

Fast Casual, Finance, Story, Rubio's