Fresh Choice Closes in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park

Casual salad buffet shutters two North Bay locations quickly, quietly

Where’d Fresh Choice go?

The Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa locations of Fresh Choice restaurant have closed — it seems permanently, after the parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

Though a sign at the Santa Rosa Plaza location states that the restaurant is temporarily closed, Kim Hall, area marketing director for Simon Malls says the space has been closed since November 13, 2012. She said there were no plans for the restaurant to reopen as a Fresh Choice.

“We are looking for a new tenant there.It’s a great location with the new renovation,” she said. She said there was very little notice to employees and most of the equipment remains in the restaurant.

No word on the Rohnert Park location, but the restaurant has been closed for more than a week. The website is no longer working and the phones in the Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park locations are not being answered.

Fresh Choice restaurants have quietly been closing throughout Northern California throughout 2012, in Novato, Concord and Corte Madera.

The casual buffet-style salad bars, based in Emeryville, operated throughout California, Texas and Washington state. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2004, but emerged in 2007 with a new owner.

What’s strange is that except for a few emails from concerned diners, no one seemed to notice and there’s precious little chatter on the web. Can a chain really disappear without anyone noticing? Hmmmm…..


78 thoughts on “Fresh Choice Closes in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park

  1. Why are people lamenting the loss of Fresh Choice when there is a Sally Tomatoes just over the freeway in RP? They’re local, good, and contientious about sustainable agriculture. Why are people worried about dining options at the mall? Tourists come from all over to eat in our restaurants and the mall is smack dab in the middle of great dining options downtown and in RR Square. Why don’t people eat at those fantastic places?

    1. It appears that the place that has opened in Rohnert Park is called California Fresh. They own and operate their own organic gardens. Going to check it out.

  2. Working in the mall, I loved fresh choice! For $5 you could get a salad to go! Where else can you get a salad? Subway? *puke* A decent salad? Nowhere! So now I bring my lunch…. As for the parking issue that you guys turned this chatter into, I think everyone in the city (well, except for one writer) thinks it stinks! Great job Santa Rosa Plaza for dropping attendance in a mall that was already low this year! Did you think that getting glass hand rails and new carpet would off set gates in the parking lot? Absolutely not. But in their defense, it’s only a couple bucks – if that. So don’t make the hard working retailers suffer!! Come back to the mall, just don’t stay longer than 90 minutes…..

  3. I don’t know why I see a lot of people hating on Fresh Choice. The food was great, the price was cheap, the only thing that’s bad is the lack of selection after the salad bar.

    Where else can you get all you can eat for $7? Yes, $7 – it seems people keep forgetting that between the hours of 3-5pm you get like half off. Its very affordable and you leave after being filled up without having that terrible bloaty feeling like at Super Buffet down town S.R.

    This place should not be closing down.

  4. The problem with the space is parking and access. Most restaurants want front door parking access. You won’t find that there unless they take out a lot of grass and trees.

  5. Fresh Choice had really deteriorated at both RP and SR. Not worth the price anymore. I ate at a Rubys Diner in San Diego this past July and really enjoyed it. They have something for everyone on the menu! It’s 1950s decor even the uniforms of the waitresses. Great service, great food! I’d love to see them come to RP. I refuse to shop at the mall now too.

  6. I saw James Hetfield of Metallica back in ’95 at the Novato Fresh Choice, LOL! Still kicking myself for not getting an autograph.
    I haven’t eaten at one in years since the food went bad and the prices went up.

  7. No doubt, after failing to return this place into a quality place to eat and bouncing back as a business, the upper management will get bonuses for their failure. After all, that is now the American way of doing corporate business.

  8. campbells soup and safeway bread better. food bland and tasteless. can make alot better in my own kitchen with leftovers and a little imagination in less time than it takes me to drive there and eat.

  9. No surprise. Any “all-you-can-eat” place where you leave UNsatisfied no matter how much you eat, isn’t worth surviving.

  10. Times are achanging…went to coddingtown to a couple of stores, old nave & big5.. like shopping at goodwill.

  11. First of all, I will never shop at any mall owned by Simon. Spent on average 8-10 thousand a year at sr plaza. Paying for parking what a joke. Management has no clue. Will spend money elsewhere. Fresh choice went down hill years ago. Frozen fake ice cream machine broken over seven years ago in sr fixed it a few months ago. Food used to be made in store then changed to mass production and shipped out for most items. Changed muffins to cheap brand tastes like cardboard. No wonder they closed. Class act is soup plantation. If they put one in would not go because of parking. SR wake up shop with local merchants away from nickle and dime parking!

  12. The only reason I go to the mall now is to get my watch battery changed at Sears. If the people in the watch repair department weren’t so good I would never set foot in SRP now that they are charging for parking.

    1. I take my watches to Olde Towne Jeweler in Railroad Square, also very nice people and a small business which I like to support.

  13. Since Simon now charges for parking I no longer “do lunch” and shop. 90 minutes is not long enough and I won’t pay to park. Macy’s I now do in Coddingtown. If I need something from Sears, it’s in and out in less than 90 minutes which does not leave time to browse other stores or even take a coffee break let alone do lunch.

  14. It’s a good idea for a restaurant and would be a good place to take the kids if it was managed better. We gave them a bunch of chances and they failed on most of them. It was either really dirty, one of us got food poisoning, the staff was rude or they were out of a lot of the items. I remember trying to help them once by pointing out that some of the hot items were out but the two ladies I mentioned it to (they were gabbing behind the salad stuff) looked at me askance and said, “that’s not our area.” It got to be we just didn’t want to risk wasting our money and went to Rubio’s instead which has never let us down.

    Too bad.

  15. Fresh Choice at the beginning was a nice alternative to “fast food.” Over time, their quality really began to slip. We have been to FC in Los Gatos, Campbell, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. The last time we went to Fresh Choice we were taken back on how dirty the restaurant was. The floors, the surface areas around the food, were just plain disgusting. Never went back after that. Not sure who up in the chain of command lost interest in providing a quality, fresh meal in a clean and enjoyable space. No tears shed for them leaving, I would have gladly locked the door behind them. Too bad though the staff now needs to find new employment.

  16. How about a Macaroni Grill? I’ve eaten at one of their restaurants in So Cal and it was pretty good. Yes, it is a large nationwide chain, oh well.

    1. Man, I’m really bummed. My family and I really liked Fresh Choice. It was fun and fresh and a good alternative to fast food. We liked the Rohnert Park better than the Santa Rosa one so I’m bummed that’s closed too. Now there is no alternative except maybe Sizzler and the salad bar at Fresh Choice was better and easier to navigate with kids than Sizzler.

  17. I find it quite interesting that it took this long for this chain to meet it’s ultimate demise. In it’s early days it was a decent place to go and it actually took some business away from The Good Earth (where I worked and which had a lot of over lapping client base). It was decent, but still a boring chain restaurant with nothing to offer other than inexpensive food that may, or may not be good. Few folks talked about and thus it just faded away literally.
    Americans have always eagerly accepted mediocrity, especially when it comes to food. Thankfully, especially in places like Sonoma County, we seem to be moving away from that trend for the most part. If you don’t think this to be true look at how many chain places don’t last, or attract the amounts of customers as they used to “back in the day”. Look at the discussion of places like those owned by “celebrity” chefs, or places that rely heavily on their liqueur sales and location to make money by attracting folks just looking for a place sit on their butts and watch TV and socialize easily without having to think, or move much. You can also do that within a few blocks of mall at many local places that will have at least as good a food as any “mall place” and probably better as well a much higher comfort level.

  18. RP location will become a McDonalds super store, mark my words. The locals will go from Wal-Mart to the new crown jewel of Ronald McDonald’s empire … plush with two drive throughs and a playground where kids can work off those happy meals.

  19. Interesting, Captain. Now it’s Notta Choice. No matter, I cook 97% of my meals, and Notta Choice was never included in the other 3%.

      1. I try to spread it around. Last expenditure was at a nonchain resto in San Rafael, of all places. The goal is always nonchain restaurants.

  20. I thought something was fishy when they stopped honoring the AAA discount. Too bad, it was a good place to take children.

  21. I enjoyed Fresh Choice. I would like to see a Pasta Pomodoro open up in the RP location! At least something other than a casino or a fast food joint like Mc Donald’s…oh, forgot….we’re too late! If you didn’t already know, the residents of RP will soon be able to get a big mac, a few tugs of the slot machine, go back for some nuggets and then finally go to Home Depot for what they were suppossed to get in the first place.
    Really, a casino in Rohnert Park and we can’t even support a restaurant that probably offered the most healthy options in the whole town? You might want to expand RP Kaiser with an Emergency Room and a Cardiovascular division to compliment our lovely new additions!

  22. Good!!! It’s about time that place went out of business. I ate there probably 4-5 times and every time it was terrible. I kept thinking that it has to get better at some point. The last time I ate there, I swore I would never go back. Glad to see the one in RP is finally gone!!!

    1. I hope your relationships dont mirror your dining ethics. You will never change him/her, im sorry.

    2. Tritop gave a strange reply. I agree with No Hope entirely. We did the same thing. Having lived so close to downtown and wanting to do something healthy we would give it a go from time to time. Ten years ago it was alright and then something changed about 8 years ago or so. We would go once a year or so and each time it was a disappointment. I like to give a restaurant a few chances because at different times there are different variables and I would hate to miss out on a great place if I gave up so easily. We learned our lesson eventually and haven’t been back there for about 3 years.

      1. Fresh Choice filed for bankruptcy eight years ago (2004). Obviously the new owners did an even worse job.

  23. Stopped going to Fresh Choice several years ago. Salad bar and Pasta ordinary.

    Erik’s Delicafe would be an ideal restaurant for this location. Great food! Erik’s has not opened in the North Bay but this would be a good opportunity for them to expand.

  24. They dug their own grave. Tons of starch. Salads with no taste from being refrigerated too long. No protein items aside from soy beans. I was always amazed that they didn’t take cues from Hometown Buffet, which does a phenomenal business. HB has multiple chicken items, roast beef, an incredible desert buffet. It was like the owners were living inside a bubble, and not paying any attention to other restaurant trends. Sad.

    1. Hey, a Hometown Buffet would be nice to have in the area! The remaining Chinese buffet in the area (Mendocino Ave) really causes one to take their lives into their own hands. I’d like to go somewhere that there is less chance of getting food poisoning.

  25. I just Googled “Fresh Choice” and the Wikipedia article stated that on November 16 “Fresh Choice” declared bankruptcy & the Courts mandated the closures as a part of the bankruptcy process.

    Mystery solved.

  26. What looks like the closure of all the Fresh Choice restaurants for an indefinite period of time while the company goes through chapter 11 again is very sad. For years,I have frequented various Fresh Choice restaurants in Concord, Walnut Creek, Colma, Santa Rosa and San Bruno with up to 20 friends and family. There was always an area where we could be off to ourselves with our group. People could choose what they wanted to eat in the exact portions they wanted. Everyone could afford the food. Some of the Fresh Choice franchises were partnering with local organic farmers and that was awesome. Service was fast. AAA, senior and early bird discounts were great. This was a great place for tasty affordable healthy food.

    We joined other Colma Fresh Choice refugees at a Sizzler nearby on Sunday after it became clear that all the Fresh Choice locations were closed. Sizzler is nice but it’s not Fresh Choice. Nothing is quite like Fresh Choice and I really appreciate it for what it has been. Fresh Choice was also a fantastic place for low budget community organizations to hold dinner meetings, fundraisers, etc. and further excellent community work.

    I’d really like to see Fresh Choice management put their website back up temporarily , hold a press conference, invite all its customers to a meeting somewhere where we, the grassroots customers can brainstorm and explore working collectively with Fresh Choice management & staff to help get Fresh Choice out of Chapter 11.

    Am I the only one who feels this way?

    1. Fresh Choice was the healthiest restaurant around. That’s why it went BK. The average American diet needs junk food. This place was healthy, and, it’s trend to organic was a real plus in my mind. If everybody ate at FC, the national health bill would drop from 2 to 1 trillion dollars per year. When 2/3 of the country is overweight, people, how do you think people got that way…not from eating vegetables.

      1. I’m with you … quality wavered ,but they had increasing amount of organic stuff and if on bought the $100 cards, + AAA discount it was a great deal. It was the onlly place for easy, predictable family dining for a low price and a healthy edge. Really bummed to see them go. Vacaville and Fairfield had seemed pretty sparsely attended for a while though; but I though at least S. Bruno / Daly City would persist. This was the only chain I ever patronized. Can’t believer they’re gone …

    2. I’m with you George. I loved Fresh Choice. My husband and I are both self-employed and work crazy hours. Fresh Choice was always a great, inexpensive dinner. I’m vegetarian and loved the variety of their food. Richard was our favorite server, and I’m so sad to see this happen to nice people with good, healthy food.

    1. And Heather, CPK, Panera, Panda, Booger Burgers! Sheez, haven’t we had enough mid-western chain food around here already? We have a ton of great little local spots that are doing an absolutely great job — and they could use some love and support from those of us who eat out. Seriously. Choose local and help out the area while upgrading your food quality.

      1. Agree that we have an awful lot of chains coming in lately, but I don’t see a local group viewing that space as a good option. It’s got chain written all over it.

  27. Fresh Choice was always kind of background noise when it comes to the local restaurant scene. Everyone’s been there, but no one really loves it. It failed to stand out in any meaningful way other than the low prices, which according to regulars were rising.

  28. Santa Rosa Plaza needs a legitimate bar and grill. Not another buffet. Especially not a pizza buffet, which would put S’barro out of business.

    1. Nobody will open a sit down restaurant in the Plaza with the parking restrictions Simon put in place. The only benefit from being in a mall is to capture dining opportunities related to the shopping experience, and with only 90 minutes of free parking, most will just shop and dash, no time left to eat except perhaps at the food court.

      1. Meh. I was kind of freaked about parking, but honestly its been no big deal. I’ve never had to pay on any visit, and i guess i’d rather pay a couple bucks to park than have to park in the rain because downtown workers have parked there (which I do understand, but the tables turn when you’re trying to return something to Macy’s and can’t park). They’ve had people at the gates the last few times I was there helping, and it moves faster than you’d expect. Overall, I’m okay with it. I think its way overblown.

        I’m MUCH more put off by those stupid downtown metered spaces. It takes a lot longer to pay (especially standing in the rain, paying with a credit card and youre waiting and waiting and waiting for it to print), you have to go back and forth to your car. Its totally off-putting.

        1. Meh yourself. In the evenings you don’t pay the meters. And many shoppers, potential restaurant goer’s, (see the comments above) are really upset about the parking “policy” even if you’re blase’ about it.

          By the way, today is another “Gates Up!” day at the Mall. An indication of a marketing program that is just a disaster.

        2. You might talk to a few of the local retailers in the Plaza and see if they think the reaction is “overblown” – I assure you, they do not.

          1. I was purely speaking as a shopper. The parking hasn’t impacted my shopping habits in the least. I find it kind of ridiculous that people are freaking out over having to pay a few dollars to park.

  29. It’s practically an American pastime to stretch the stomach, such as the competitors do at the hotdog eating contests. It’s just not economically feasible to have all-you-can-eat buffets anymore.

  30. We’re too blue collar for CPK. My money’s on a Cici’s or a mega Panda Express.

    BTW: Apparently another Panera is opening in Santa Rosa. Ooooooo! Hey…..

    1. Too “blue collar” for California Pizza Kitchen? Not sophisticated enough for bland mall food capitalizing on passe culinary trend that hasn’t been fresh in nearly a quarter of a century? Where the hell do think we are, Bug Tussle, Arkansas? Hooterville? Mayberry? When I spent some time in Colorado, we used to joke that the only people who wouldn’t eat at a CPK were Californians. The only thing “California” about a CPK is the first word of its name.

      1. I didn’t say i like CPK. ONly that they typically go into higher end malls than we have in Santa Rosa. When Yankee Candle is the newest tenant, I have to wonder which direction we’re going in.

  31. I’d love to see a Red Robin come in. We stopped going to the mall Fresh Choice location when they instituted paying to park (still dumb in my opinion)

  32. I haven’t been in a Fresh Choice in at least a dozen years. I enjoyed them when it was economical to eat there. As they raised prices, I could no longer justify the little bit that I ate for the price. I could eat a nicer meal elsewhere for the same price and have leftovers to take home with me!

  33. “The company filed for bankruptcy in 2006, but was purchased in 2004, but emerged in 2007 with a new owner.”


    1. You mean the fastest growing non-poultry / non-caffeine franchise in Southern California? Count me in!

  34. This is really sad for me. I met my beau there six years ago and we are still going strong. We visited the Fresh Choice in the mall as often as possible, and always reminisced in line and had the same original goofy conversation. I had hoped they might cater our wedding. =(

  35. We quit going quite a while ago when more and more things were being charged for as extras for the salads.
    You can get unlimited spaghetti,pizza, breads or meatballs but to add some chicken to a salad cost $1-$2. Why? i didn’t WANT the pasta stuff- just tthe salad. That is why we used to go there- not for the other stuff.

    i think they would have done better charging for the hot stuff and leaving the salad as a part of the buffet like other salad bars.
    That is why we stopped going.

  36. The one in SAn Luis Obispo went out a few years back and California Pizza Kitchen took its place. It is a good location in SR – wonder what will go in there? My money’s on Cici’s (never been but they’re growing) or CPK.

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