Johnny Rockets finds its sea legs aboard Royal Caribbean ships

Posted on Thu Jan 21 2010

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While brands duke it out to occupy the best of a dwindling supply of A-list retail locations here on terra firma, one family-restaurant chain has soundly out-sited its every competitor. How? By going to sea. For the last decade, the Lake Forest, Calif.-based retro-diner chain Johnny Rockets has been gradually setting up shop on a fleet of cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean. We're not talking about licensed burgers on room-service menus, here. These are actual, freestanding restaurants, usually located on one of the upper decks toward the stern. To date, the chain has opened 10 of them. (Go to johnnyrockets.com/locations to see a list of the vessels.) The open-air locations allow the chain to feature both outdoor and indoor seating, and sport the façade and signage akin to ordinary sidewalk locations. Similarities aside, these floating restaurants are a world apart from their land-based brethren. Below, some branding pros and cons of serving burgers at sea:
  Pros
  • A captive audience in the most literal sense imaginable.
  • Sunset views sure beat what locations in Illinois can offer.
  • No worries about a competing chain opening up just across the shuffleboard deck.
  Cons
  • A meal at Johnny's isn't included in the cruise ticket; these burgers are "extra-fare."
  • If bad weather hits and the ship starts to roll, nobody's eating a damn thing.
  • Occasional lifeboat drills can really kill a festive mood.
  Aside from a few limited-time promos, Johnny corporate hasn't sought much press attention for these locations since the first one opened back in 2000, but maybe that's because they don't want to encourage imitators. After all, vacation blogs speak of lines forming outside the units, and when BrandFreak reached Johnny Rockets' vp of communications to ask if there were plans to open any more oceangoing grills, we were told: "Yes, as many as we can."

—Posted by Robert Klara


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