The countdown starts: Utah burger chain The Training Table hints at reopening

Children play together at The Training Table in 2015. The restaurant chain was a gathering place for many families until its closure in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Jenessa Leaman)

The Training Table, a popular Utah restaurant, posted a countdown on their website that ends Friday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m., which some hope is a hint at reopening.

According to Utah Court of Appeals case Chard v. Chard, The Training Table shut down in 2016 because of a lawsuit between Stephanie Chard, the CEO and president of The Training Table at the time, and Kent Chard, her father and the original co-founder and president.

Stephanie claimed that the rent for the restaurants, which her fellow board of directors and father raised in 2012, was too high. She sued and stopped paying the rent. In return, Kent filed a counterclaim and tried to evict the restaurant.

According to the case summary, “the landlord entities prevailed in the eviction proceedings, resulting in the closure of the restaurants.”

In 2019, the Utah Court of Appeals dismissed most of the claims made by both of the parties.

“We’re still a family owned business and still very much ‘A Utah Original!’ Stay hungry and stay tuned,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post July 20. The post now has more than 1,300 comments, many expressing hope in the reopening of the chain.

According to the Chard v. Chard case, The Training Table first opened in 1977 and featured a unique ordering system, in which restaurant goers would sit down and then order food through a phone stationed at the table. When the business closed in 2016, there were five restaurant locations in the Salt Lake metropolitan area.

“I was devastated. I know it sounds silly, but I was really sad,” said BYU alum Julie Keddington. “I have missed their turkey sandwiches and cheese fries immensely.” 

For Keddington, The Training Table is not just special because of their famous cheesy fries, but because of the memories the restaurant holds. 

“I grew up going there with my family a lot and so if my dad ever took me to lunch by myself that was where we would go,” Keddington said. “It’s not even so much that the food is good but that I associate it with fun times with my family.”

Will Snow, a freshman at BYU, remembers going with his family when he was younger. “I honestly think I’ve only been once or twice, but it’s a memorable experience,” Snow said.

BYU alumna Jenessa Leaman said she went to The Training Table for notable moments in her life.

“I miss The Training Table. I grew up going there after all the BYU football game wins,” Leaman said. “My husband actually took me there the night we got engaged so it’s got a lot of good memories for me.”

After six years out of business, The Training Table may face some challenges in reopening, according to Paul Godfrey, the Department Chair and professor at BYU’s Marriott School of Management.

“They’re now entering a brand new competitive environment that has dramatically changed since COVID-19,” he said.

Godfrey said that with online ordering services like Doordash, he is unsure that The Training Table’s landline ordering service will set them apart.

“Before cell phones, it was an appealing feature,” Godfrey said. “Now anyone can do that.”

While it is uncertain what the future holds for The Training Table, many BYU students and alumni are excited at the possibilities. Past loyal customers of The Training Table will be waiting for the countdown to end Oct. 7.  

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