Under the orange roof
Howard Johnson's a.k.a. HoJo's is a really good example of Americana, or at least what used to be Americana. Unfortunately I was born a little too late to experience what HoJo's was really like. It's something that's one for the history books that will most likely never come back (but you never know...)
There's a video from a few years back that shows what HoJo's used to be. HoJo's actually still exists but primarily as hotels. How many actual HoJo restaurants are left? Three. There used to be almost 1000.
So what happened to the company that used to rival Coca-Cola as one of the most recognized companies in the United States? Corporate crap, more or less. The distinction that Mr. Howard Johnson put into Hojo's was killed in short order once the corporate mucky-mucks got a hold of it.
This distinction I speak was made up of 2 things: Family atmosphere and distinctive buildings. The atmosphere was done thru means of television advertising. It worked and worked well. The buildings had long sloping orange roofs mostly (although some had different shapes.)
What I find most interesting about HoJo's is what happened to the restaurant chain after it was bought and sold a bunch of times.
Ready for this?
You've probably seen - and possibly eaten in - a HoJo's and didn't even know it. HoJoland.com calls these places HoJo Ghosts. These are buildings that were formerly HoJo's but were then converted into another restaurant. And it was most likely an IHOP. All you have to do is look for that distinctive roof shape. IHOPs have blue roofs instead of orange. And if the shape is correct it was probably a HoJo's in its former life.
The heyday of HoJo's is long gone. Like I said above, I was born one generation too late to really experience it.
Would this franchise work if it were revived? It might. All the people in their 40s and older (as that would seemingly be the only age group that actually eats out anymore) would remember HoJo's and flock to it in droves.
Hey, it could happen..
On a personal note, it would be cooler beyond words to get a girlfriend that actually likes places like this. The modern variant is IHOP as mentioned above and Denny's. There are 5 Denny's restaurants within less than 10 miles of me, and their breakfasts are awesome.
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