retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Associated Press reports that one of just three remaining Howard Johnson's restaurants in the US has been sold and is closing, leaving just two restaurants in the formerly iconic chain in existence.

The unit that has been sold and is closing is in Lake Placid, New York, where it has operated for almost six decades.

At one time, there were more than a thousand Howard Johnson's in the US, owned and franchised units that together made up what then was the largest restaurant chain in the country. There were also more than 500 Howard Johnson's "motor lodges" around the country. (There used to be one right off the Connecticut Turnpike, not far from where I live. It declined to the point where, just before it closed, it was best known for being a place where truckers could avail themselves of certain personal, adult services. It was torn down a few years ago and replaced by a Whole Foods and a BMW dealership. That's my idea of gentrification...)

I think it fair to say that this yet another example of a company that simply did not see change coming and was unable to adapt to an evolving competitive landscape. As it was declining, America was also seeing an explosion in fast food franchises and highway travel, and yet, for a wide variety of reasons, it seemed unable to capitalize on the opportunities.

Which is a valuable lesson for every marketer.

Bt the way ... the remaining two Howard Johnson's are in Bangor, Maine, and in Lake George, New York.

Which shocks me. Because I would have bet real money that there was one in Rock Ridge.
KC's View: