Food Writer's Diary

Johnny Rockets, spreading Americana one restaurant at a time

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John Fuller, president and chief executive of the Johnny Rockets chain, stopped by the office this morning for a chat. We spoke of many things, much of it having to do with the casual dining burger chain’s sale in June to Sun Capital.

John says he’s very happy with the acquisition. He’d have to be an idiot to tell the media anything other than that, but I believe him.

John’s a big (6'6") former basketball-playing all-American kind of guy from Southern California. A casual dresser and huge fan of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages, although his new show of choice when he comes to town is Book of Mormon — indicating that he has a little bit of an edge — he seems like the kind of guy who ought to head up a restaurant that sells Americana.

Sure, it looks like it’s selling burgers, fries and milkshakes, but if that’s what it were selling it wouldn’t have been able to sign a 20-unit deal with a franchisee in India. Most Indians don’t eat beef, but as a Johnny Rockets official told me when we were on a trade mission to India together in 2011, franchisees in that country will likely sell chicken, vegetarian patties, fries and shakes, as well as the music and “interactive” service, which includes servers singing and dancing to American classics.

I asked John if franchisees all over the world had their staff dancing for their customers. Indeed they do, he said.

Let’s take a look at some, shall we?

This video is from Johnny Rockets in Bahrain, where the staff is somewhat rocking out to “Stayin’ Alive.” I know the song is by Anglo-Australian group The Bee Gees. You don’t have to tell me that, but it was part of the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, an American movie if ever there was one.

In Dubai they know how to show that they have “Night Fever.”

From the Philippines, we have a rousing rendition of “Footloose.”

Philippine singers and dancers are highly sought after throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia. I hope now you understand why.

Russians, not so much, but have you ever read a Russian history textbook? Believe me, they don’t have a lot to dance about. Nonetheless, they manage to celebrate some good times at the opening of the Moscow Johnny Rockets.

 

August 30 update: This entry has been edited to correct typographical errors.

September 4 update: This entry has been edited to accurately state the side of Johnny Rockets’ franchise deal in India.

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Food Writer's Diary is a blog written by Bret Thorn, senior food editor of Nation’s Restaurant News, which covers culinary trends and his adventures.

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Bret Thorn

Bret Thorn is responsible for reporting on culinary trends in foodservice for Nation's Restaurant News. He joined NRN in 1999, after spending about five years as a journalist in Thailand, where...
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