business

Whatever Happened to Howard Johnson's Restaurants?

Once a staple of roadside dining, the last HoJo's closed its doors in 2017. R.I.P. fried clam strips.

Remember Howard Johnson's restaurants? If you do, you're not alone. The popular purveyor of roadtrip staples once boasted hundreds of locations in the U.S. That's no longer the case. Take a nostalgic trip down memory lane with your taste buds to learn the restaurant's fate.

In the 1950s and '60s, the restaurant chain affectionately known as HoJo's was a can't-miss attraction for baby boomer kids being carted around in the car by their Greatest Generation parents. Howard Johnson’s was a pioneer of the nationwide roadside restaurant, replicating from coast-to-coast everything from its signature orange roof, cupola, the Simple Simon and the Pieman plaques, and its limited-menu food items. Howard Johnson's presaged the success of McDonald's doing the same thing. At its zenith, Howard Johnson's operated more than 1,000 restaurants, including the Ground Round brand.

So what took the mojo out of HoJo? Failing to update its menu -- centered around fried clams, chicken, hot dogs and ice cream -- its infrastructure and its marketing, along with increased competition from the likes of Friendly's, Applebee's and Chili's, sealed the fate of the Howard Johnson's restaurant chain. The last location closed in 2017, in Lake George, N.Y. (Note: The Howard Johnson hotel chain is still operating.)

"They relied on a road travel-based crowd that changed or disappeared when airline travel became more affordable," says Alex M. Susskind, professor of Food & Beverage Management at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.

Learn the fates of 13 more classic restaurant chains including Bennigan's, Chi-Chi's and Beefsteak Charlie's.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
How to Calculate the Break-Even Age for Taking Social Security
social security

How to Calculate the Break-Even Age for Taking Social Security

When it comes to maximizing your Social Security benefits, there are many elements to consider. One factor that can be especially enlightening is your…
August 30, 2021
Spend Without Worry in Retirement
Financial Planning

Spend Without Worry in Retirement

Fears of running out of money prevent many retirees from tapping the nest egg they’ve worked a lifetime to save. With these strategies, you can genera…
August 30, 2021

Recommended

15 Things Retirees Should Buy at Costco
Making Your Money Last

15 Things Retirees Should Buy at Costco

From its house brand Kirkland Signature lineup to name brands and hidden gems, the warehouse club offers bargains aimed at mature shoppers.
September 8, 2021
6 Troublemaking Clients Chiropractors and Lawyers Should Refuse to Take
small business

6 Troublemaking Clients Chiropractors and Lawyers Should Refuse to Take

Chiropractors and lawyers should just say no to these six types of clients, who are either too difficult or too devious to work with. Just walk away!
September 7, 2021
Pitfalls to Avoid When Financing Your Business
small business

Pitfalls to Avoid When Financing Your Business

When small-business owners look for financing, they make a lot of mistakes. Here are six common issues to steer clear of.
August 31, 2021
Do You Own a Business with a Parking Lot? Read This Now!
small business

Do You Own a Business with a Parking Lot? Read This Now!

You may be vulnerable to an ADA lawsuit without even knowing it. Here’s why and what to do about it.
August 21, 2021