Howard Johnson’s had a history as a restaurant chain. It was founded in the United States in 1925. While the restaurants served a wide variety of food, they were particularly known for their ice cream, and their “28 flavors” became a popular catchphrase. Over time, Howard Johnson’s expanded to include hotels and motels, but it started as a restaurant chain.
Howard Johnson was born on January 2, 1897, in Boston, Massachusetts. His family sold ice cream. The young Howard set up ice cream stands in the summers along the shore. His stands also began offering food.
In 1925, Johnson decided to expand his business by opening a drugstore, soon turned restaurant, in Quincy, Massachusetts. The centerpiece remained the top quality of ice cream he served. He developed 28 different flavors – all delicious due to the high fat content he embedded in each.
The restaurant was a success, and Johnson opened several more locations. He focused on providing high-quality food at affordable prices, and he also created a distinctive look for his restaurants, with bright orange roofs and cheerful décor. The Howard Johnson’s restaurants were a popular roadside dining destination for families and travelers. They served a wide variety of food, including comfort food favorites like fried chicken, clam chowder, and grilled cheese sandwiches, as well as their famous ice cream.
Cream Rises to the Top
At their peak in the 1970s, there were over 1,000 Howard Johnson’s restaurants located throughout the United States, as well as in several other countries, including Canada, Mexico, and Australia. Its “Hojo” nickname was recognized by most people. Some airlines even served their food in flight.
During their heyday, in 1961, Howard Johnson’s was purchased by the hospitality company, Imperial Group. Imperial Group was later renamed the General Host Corporation, which also owned other brands such as Ramada and Days Inn. Howard still retained an interest in the comp[any at that time.
In 1979, Howard Johnson’s was sold again to the Marriott Corporation, which at the time was primarily known for their hotel business. Marriott continued to operate the Howard Johnson’s restaurant chain, but began to phase out the restaurants in favor of focusing on their hotel business. This closed out the remaining interest of Howard Johnson in the organization. By that time, Johnson was in his 80s and had already retired from the day-to-day management of the business.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Howard Johnson’s restaurant chain declined in popularity and the number of locations decreased. By the early 2000s, there were only a few dozen Howard Johnson’s restaurants left in the United States. 2016 saw the closure of the last continuously-operating restaurant in Bangor, Maine. The very last Howard Johnson’s Restaurant closed in 2022 in Lake George, New York.
- Year Started: 1925
- Year Ended: 2022
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founder
- Location Sales: North America
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Howard Johnson
- Owner While In Use: Several
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Baskin Robbins
- Naics Code: 722511
- Location Headquarters: Quincy, Massachusetts, USA