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The History of Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets was founded in 1986 by Ronn Teitelbaum. Already a successful businessman with a popular men’s clothing retail business, he chose to sell his enterprise and pursue his childhood dream of owning a restaurant. In the spring of 1986, he opened the first Johnny Rockets on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. So many customers showed up to the launch that the restaurant had to stay open until 5 a.m. to serve everyone! Teitelbaum famously gave his restaurant a 1950s soda shop/diner theme. Even the name references a sense of Americana: “Johnny” is a reference to American folk hero Johnny Appleseed and “Rockets” is a reference to the Oldsmobile 88 Rocket. Johnny Rockets was an immediate hit and expanding rapidly in America. By 1989, Johnny Rockets went international, expanding first to Tokyo and then London a year after that. (Since then, the chain has continued to grow internationally.) In keeping with the theme of the restaurant, servers help to create a unique experience for customers by singing and dancing regularly to classic songs like “Stayin’ Alive” and “Footloose.” In 2016, some Johnny Rockets locations underwent a modernization effort in an attempt to appeal to Millennials, but by January 2020, the chain was under new management and it was announced that some locations would retain their retro look. In August 2020, it was announced that FAT Brands, which owns Fatburger, would be purchasing Johnny Rockets, but the chain is still going strong under new ownership and remains an iconic — and distinctly American — burger restaurant today.

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