Lost Flavors: Remembering the iconic restaurants Singapore once had

The Taco Bell outlet at Causeway Point in the 1990s. Photo: Taco Bell
The Taco Bell outlet at Causeway Point in the 1990s. Photo: Taco Bell

Being an established F&B outlet overseas doesn’t mean that it’ll survive in Singapore’s highly competitive market.

While there have been many successes, there were also failures. Whether it’s due to its high prices or just tastes that didn’t sit well with local preferences, here is a list of restaurants Singapore once had.

The Cafe Cartel

Photo: The Singapore Conscience/Facebook

Remember The Cafe Cartel? The joint that serves free-flow bread once you sit down? They had stores all around Singapore but slowly disappeared. Recognizable by its store sign, the eateries had several branches and served standard Western food. 

Its Instagram page is still up even though its latest post is from 2015. RIP.

Chuck E. Cheese

The family entertainment chain that has a rat as its mascot was once at Parkway Parade in the 1980s. Known for its insane kids’ parties and its uneven pizza slices, the Singapore outlet had a “Fantasy Playland” area where children could entertain themselves after having a slice of pizza.

Not much is known about why the chain exited but it seems like there isn’t much hope that it’ll return any time soon as its parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2021 due to the pandemic that has killed countless establishments globally. 

Taco Bell

Photo: Tacobellnz/Instagram

The famed Tex-Mex cuisine once dipped its tacos in Singapore’s market in 1999 at the mall now known as Funan. It operated with KFC and lasted for close to a decade before exiting in 2008.

According to a Quora user who frequented the outlet, he said although the queues were long, the prices were much higher than its competitors so sales plunged. People also thought the prices were not worth the brand’s bite-sized tacos.

Taco Bell has since shifted its focus to other Southeast Asian markets by opening its first outlet in Cyberjaya, Malaysia as well as in Senopati, Indonesia.


Photo: Shaunchng

American diner chain Denny’s had its run in Singapore. It was a 24-hour restaurant that ran for an impressive 16 years in Orchard Towers, Orchard Road, Marina Mandarin and Holland Village before closing in 2002. It served good ole classic American breakfast food that had eggs, bacon, pancakes and sausages.

If it were to ever make its return to Singapore, we’d think it’d be a hit considering it’d be serving no-frills food at all times of the day that would be ideal for drunken nights and suppers. 

TGI Friday’s

Photo: Burpple

This eatery famous for its Baby Back Ribs might be more familiar to some as it closed not too long ago. TGI Friday’s is a longtime American bar and grill chain in Singapore that started out on Penang Road in 1992 and expanded to Orchard and the East Coast in 2017. 

It closed not too long after.

But not all hope is lost! Last September, the chain announced plans to open restaurants across South and Southeast Asia over the next decade. While most of the outlets are planned for India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam, Singapore is slated to have four outlets.


Photo: Places of Interest in Singapore

Another Tex-Mex joint Chili’s had a whirlwind time in Singapore. The brand that served burgers, nachos, fajitas and cocktails, first opened at Orchard Parade Hotel in 1994 with three other outlets but is said to have shuttered due to the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998.

It was then brought back in 2009 in Tanglin Mall with other outlets Resorts World Sentosa and Clarke Quay Central that ran for a decade before closing in 2019.

Apparently, there were several reasons why it exited. Its bad service, slow sales and high rents were some. The brand said it also struggled with hiring and training its employees.


Photo: Gtotheelo/Instagram

American fast food chain Wendy’s has had a rough time failing to thrive in the Singapore market.

The brand that is famous for its square ground beef hamburgers, thick-cut fries and chilli was first brought in the 1980s with outlets in Far East Plaza and Parkway Parade but it soon closed down not long after due to the competitive market and high prices.

But in 2008, the Kopitiam Group revived Wendy’s with plans to open 35 outlets all over the city-state. While it managed to expand over 11 outlets by 2012, the chain didn’t last long as it closed its last outlet in the NUS UTown’s Town Plaza in 2015 without warning.

Fast forward to years later in 2021, a job ad from Wendy’s was posted in search of a Franchise Operations Manager in Singapore which prompted speculations that they were going to make a comeback soon. But the fast food joint confirmed that that wasn’t the case at all and was just hiring people from the city-state to aid their Asia operations.

It’s been a tumultuous journey for some of these brands but competition for F&B chains in Singapore has been peaking with multiple franchises from all around the world entering, so maybe these restaurants made the right decision to exit early on. But if some were to ever come back again, we think that it might just be as popular as it used to be. 

What are some establishments you want to return or think could work in Singapore?

Other stories you should check out:


Support local news and join a community of like-minded
“Coconauts” across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

Join Now
Coconuts TV
Our latest and greatest original videos
Subscribe on