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Johnny Rockets Makes Vacations Even More Memorable

Johnny Rockets Makes Vacations Even More Memorable

James R. Walker is Chief Development Officer for The Johnny Rockets Group, Inc.  He spoke (did not sing) to Jack Bulavsky, Special Assignment Correspondent for Casino Life.

            James R. Walker has more than 20 years of experience in franchise development including serving as Chief Development Office for the Florida-based Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and The Brass Tap concepts. He previously served in the same capacity for Fresh Brands, the parent company of Baja Fresh, Sweet Factory, La Salsa and Canyon’s Burger. Walker also served as National Director of Operations for AFC Enterprises/Cinnabon, Inc. He attended the New England Culinary Institute and received his Masters in Business Administration from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Walker’s oversees domestic development strategy, including construction, design and real estate to bring Johnny Rockets to traditional locations, as well as non-traditional locations such as airports, amusement parks and casinos.

Johnny Rockets currently has more than 300 restaurants in 32 states, 23 countries and aboard 11 Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Additionally, the brand will soon open restaurants in three new countries; Brazil, India and Pakistan.

How did the name Johnny Rockets come to be?

Founder Ronn Teitelbaum originated the name by combining the timeless Johnny Appleseed story with the classic Oldsmobile Rocket 88. Together, they embody the concept of classic Americana and the promise of the future. This same concept is still used by Johnny Rockets today. When and where did the first store open? Our very first restaurant opened on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, California, June 6, 1986.

What is the draw that pulls customers into the restaurant and what brings them back?

Johnny Rockets is a uniquely authentic and naturally fun brand. Like casinos, we make any vacation or special event more memorable due most in part to our Guest Promise.  Our Guest Promise is the cornerstone of our business and it sets us apart from other restaurants: a welcoming greeting of “Hello” while serving the freshest, high quality all-American fare promptly in a sparkling clean restaurant. That coupled with our atmosphere of classic, timeless fun and dancing servers provides our guests with an escape from modern everyday stress.

What is the training program a "dancing server" completes in order to be hired?

Johnny Rockets Guests have come to know us for our entertaining atmosphere, just as they know us for our amazing shakes and hamburgers. At Johnny Rockets, dancing is a very important part of our overall dining experience. During our hiring process we seek service professionals with outgoing, enthusiastic personalities who are willing to learn several of our choreographed dances throughout their career with Johnny Rockets. During the training process, Cashiers and Servers are trained to perform four dances. There are three rules to performing a Johnny Rockets dance. 1) Have FUN! Nothing is more awkward than watching someone dance that is not enjoying themselves. 2) Always start your moves with the right foot and/or hand. 3) Always clap for yourself at the end; after all, it takes courage and passion to perform in front of a room full of strangers.

How has the menu changed over the years, i.e. vegetarian, etc.?

As our founder Mr. Teitelbaum always said, “You’ll never see a fajita on the menu.” We are all about creating and improving our classic all-American fare. While we have made some strategic menu changes to accommodate the needs and desires of our loyal guests, like our vegetarian Streamliner and sweet potato fries, Johnny Rockets will always strive to serve the best hamburgers, shakes and fries in every market we serve. For our guests, they crave our specific combinations of spices, onions, pickles, relish, mustard, lettuce, tomato, sauces, bun and - most importantly - our fresh (never frozen) all natural pure ground beef.

You monitor eating habits and what people like or don't like to eat. What have you noticed or discovered?  And does this info relate to all diners (adults, children) and to regions of the country (northern states, southern states)? 

We’ve noticed that hamburgers, shakes and fries are the same in every language.  Truly all-American fare is that which needs no translation.  In fact, our menus vary slightly around the world.  In the Eastern U.S., malteds are popular, as are fried eggs on hamburgers.  In the Philippines, the Spamburger is a favorite and served with an optional side of rice.  And in the Middle East, all bacon is made of beef instead of pork.  Other than these regional preferences that are added to the menu from time to time, we find that our made-to-order, cook-in-front-of-you experience is appreciated by everyone, around the world.

How do you insure quality control and maintain consistency in every restaurant?

Johnny Rockets has an experienced purchasing department that continuously monitors the quality of specific ingredients sourced from well known, high quality brands like Coca-Cola® and Kraft. We also have area Corporate District Managers and Franchise Support Managers that regularly contact and visit the restaurants under their jurisdiction. In addition to those operations teams, Johnny Rockets has recently employed the services of EcoSure. EcoSure delivers industry-leading Quality Assurance Solutions through onsite evaluations for our restaurants across the country. They work with more than 300 registered dietitians and food safety professionals who perform the onsite evaluations as independent contractors focusing on food safety and brand protection.

Johnny Rockets is in casinos in the U.S. What about outside the U.S.?

Johnny Rockets opened its first casino location in 1995.  Currently we have restaurants in 23 casinos, including one in the Niagara Falls Casino Resort in Canada, and one that is scheduled to open at Caesar’s Windsor Ontario Canada. We are also looking at several other opportunities to expand in casino throughout the globe. What is done differently in those restaurants per menu, dancing servers, etc.? Johnny Rockets takes several steps to ensure that our brand is represented consistently around the world.  First and foremost is with our brand positioning and our international development and training team. After all, internationally, Johnny Rockets represents the best elements from a century of American dining and history, to create an experience and menu that is relevant today and will be for decades to come.

How do you see future restaurant growth within the casino industry and what is the benefit operators receive from bringing a Johnny Rockets into their casino? 

Johnny Rockets thrives where people go to have fun.  Our bright, cheerful atmosphere and friendly dancing crews are conducive to equally lively environments.  What’s more, we offer guests of every age a myriad of menu options from hot to cold, heavy or light and dine-in or to-go.  We also offer every hamburger with a choice of four protein options.  With many of our top-performing restaurants located in casinos, we provide venue-specific knowledge to our operators on how to maximize their operations.

 Johnny Rockets connotes fun. Any chance of a Johnny Rockets casino?

While the possibility is intriguing, we think we’ll stick to the core of our Founder’s vision which is an energetic, family-friendly brand that welcomes kids of all ages to enjoy our all-American experience.

To find out more about franchise opportunities with Johnny Rockets you are welcome to visit www.johnnyrockets.com/franchise-with-us.html