How operational experience prevails in the restaurant industry


Several years ago, in June 2013 to be precise, Johnny Rockets was sold to Sun Capital.

Having been formed in 1986, there’s no doubt that this was a significant restaurant business. When one also considers the 300 locations that the restaurant had at the time, it was clear to see that this could be an opportunity – if the right company were to get their hands on the brand.

Firstly, let’s take a look at Johnny Rockets. As already stated, this is a chain that has existed for thirty years. It means that the public knew all about it; they knew about the 50s-style decor and the juke-box machines that were available everywhere.

The previous paragraph is important, particularly if you read any recent interviews with co-CEO Marc Leder. In one interview, he claimed that there were several ingredients that made Sun Capital interested in buying a company. One of these was that they had to be a market leader and considering the 300 locations that Johnny Rockets boasted – it’s clear that they were there or thereabouts.

Leder has also made no secret of the fact that Sun Capital have to be confident that they can make a difference through their own operational expertise. This is where the acquisition of Johnny Rockets seemed absolutely perfect for them; after all, they had immense experience in the restaurants industry through Boston Market, Fazoli’s and Bar Louis. In other words, they had all the tools at their disposal to make a difference to Johnny Rockets.

Fast forward three years and it appears as though the decision to buy Johnny Rockets has been completely vindicated.

The company have announced that they are opening 14 new mall locations this year and considering the restaurant’s demographics, this provides a massive opportunity. Not only that, it highlights the progress that the company has made in being able to add to its locations following the acquisition in 2013.

While some of the operational changes that have been implemented will probably not be visible to the public eye, others are much more obvious and highlight just how beneficial it can be to partner with an investment company who have experience in a relevant industry.

In the case of Johnny Rockets, the company announced a brand refresh – resulting in a completely new design for their restaurants and a brand new logo.

As already touched upon, part of the brand before was to provide the retro, 50s feel. Now, things have been made more contemporary in a bid to resonate with younger demographics. This not only affects the layout of the store, but even smaller things like the menu.

At this point a note should also be made on the direct impact of the new brand. For example, in the aftermath of the refresh in the Destiny USA Mall branch of the restaurant, the company recorded 22% more sales.

Ultimately, experience is everything and in the case of Johnny Rockets, success has quickly occurred.

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