Breakfast Time at Howard Johnson’s Restaurants 

What was breakfast like at a Howard Johnson’s Restaurant (HOJO’s)?

I’ve heard so much about lunch, dinner, and ice cream at HOJO’s. I’ve heard nothing about breakfast. Very little information is available about what was served in the heyday of these restaurants. I have been able to find some pictures of menus, but none that answer all my questions. The piece of the puzzle that always seems to be missing is the one that talks about breakfast.

I know it might seem silly for me to worry about what was served at a restaurant chain that is on the brink of extinction. I don’t care. To me, HOJO’s is an American institution that does not get the respect it deserves. In order to tell the entire story of a restaurant, you can’t focus solely on its history. You have to look at what they served throughout the day. After all, without the food, nobody would have a reason to go to a restaurant.

Based on advertising alone, it doesn’t appear that HOJO’s wanted to highlight what they served for breakfast. I’ve looked at all their advertising and it’s devoid of any mention of their morning dining options. I firmly believe that what’s available online is not a complete representation of how HOJO’s presented themselves to the masses.

After delving into the deepest depths of the internet, I came across a one page listing that has some breakfast items with the HOJO’s name at the top. I don’t know where this came from or whether it’s accurate. I would have to see a similar listing in the context of a complete menu.

Regardless of what was served at HOJO’s at breakfast time, I can imagine that it was grand. A big part of what makes a meal enjoyable is atmosphere. If there was anything at which HOJO’s excelled, it was atmosphere. They created an environment in which their guests could have the best possible experience. People couldn’t wait to get down to their local HOJO’ s.

I will continue to dig into this issue. When I find out more, I will post a follow up piece. I want to devote coverage to each meal served at HOJO’s. In doing so, I’m hoping I will be accurately and completely represent why Howard Johnson’s Restaurants were so great and why we need them now more than ever.

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Where Have All the HOJO’s Commercials Gone?

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You would think that with all the video sharing options we have available us, there wouldn’t be any missing video. On the contrary, there are so many things that have little or no video associated with them. One of them being commercials for Howard Johnson’s Restaurants. I understand that there are many commercials for the brand on YouTube; however, the quality of each of these videos is horrendous. They all look like someone dredged up a long lost video tape from the bottom of the ocean, encoded it, and threw it up in the lowest possible resolution.

There has to be more video available than what I’m finding. I realize that internet video is a relatively new thing, but actual video isn’t. Somewhere out there someone has a stockpile of HOJO’s commercials that are in a somewhat usable format. I want to talk to that person. I feel like my ability to adequately tell the story of this brand is hindered by the shocking lack of visual material on it. That being said, there are all sorts of other kinds of advertisements I can get my hands on. Those will be covered in subsequent posts.

Commercials are seen as an irritant by many. Millions of people have a plugin attached to their web browser for the sole purpose of blocking ads. With all this outrage swirling around, it should come as no surprise that my search for commercials is coming up empty.I am not willing to give up. I know that Wyndham, the company that currently owns the brand, has them stored somewhere at their headquarters. At least that’s what I’m hoping. Since so much time has passed, it’s possible that they have been deleted at some point over the years.

Why would they though? You wouldn’t be able to tell their story if you cut out the way it was advertised. A lot of company’s commercials give a sense of how they evolved over time. You’re able to see how a company represented itself during the time in which the commercial came out. You can’t derive this kind of story from any other resource. If the commercials for Howard Johnson’s Restaurants were deleted, I want to know a good reason why. If they still exist, I want to get my hands on them and show them to you.

I will tell you that my favorite commercial out of the ones I could find was the “Around the Corner” one. I have watched it several times and it ranks as one of the best commercials I have ever seen. I feel like it presents a high quality snapshot of what Howard Johnson’s was all about. This formula could be used for any new Howard Johnson’s commercial and still produce the same impeccable results.

Articles in this Series
1. Take Me Back to Howard Johnson’s Introduction
2. Where Have All the HOJO’s Commercials Gone?
3. So You Wanna Build a HOJO’s?
4. Lake George’s Howard Johnson’s Restaurant: A Good Place to Start

So You Wanna Build a HOJO’s?

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I keep having a recurring dream where I build a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in my local community. In this dream, I buy a long neglected plot of land and begin construction right away. The resulting restaurant was not a carbon copy of the dilapidated HOJO’s that have dotted the landscape in the past couple decades. No, this restaurant takes what was once thought to be the long gone glory days of this American institution and brings it back to the forefront of our consciousness. People who have spent untold years being disgruntled with their local restaurant chains will finally have a destination where people will take care of them. When they have a complaint, someone will be there to make sure that it’s addressed.

Is it possible for someone to feel nostalgic about a place they never visited from a time in which they never lived? I understand that there’s still one HOJO’s location trucking along in Lake George, New York. I could go there tomorrow if I really wanted to. At the same time, that HOJO’s is not the same as the ones that have people looking back so fondly. It’s a tribute to a time gone by. However loving of a tribute it might be, it’s not the same thing as the genuine article.

You might be thinking “Why are you dusting off an ancient franchise when there are so many modern ones to choose from?” I choose HOJO’s because HOJO’s is America. We had 1,000 locations to choose from. Through a combination of corporate greed and the apathy of the restaurant going public, we watched as an institution burned to the ground and we didn’t do a thing. Yet, we freak out and mobilize at the mere suggestion that the Lake George location might close soon. Our nostalgic hysteria will do nothing to fill the coffers of those who are running that location. The time has come for action.

I read the news every day in all its horrifying glory. One unifying them seems to be a desire to return to the simplicity of days gone by. What better way to accomplish that feat than to dust off a nearly century old restaurant chain and make it ready for prime time? Don’t throw a modern sheen on it and rob it of all its character though. The new HOJO’s should look like the people who built them fired up the time machine and brought them knack from a previous era.

I talk about these things all the time to my family. They think I’m crazy for liking old things. Perhaps I am crazy. I just know that we should not press forward at such a frantic pace without first acknowledging our history. So many of us like to go out to eat, yet we accept options that would be regarded as substandard in any era. We are the public that keeps these restaurants open, so if we want better, we need to raise our voices and demand better. Until then, we will be left with what fills so much of us with dread.

Who knows. Maybe my dream of building my own HOJO’s will become a reality. Maybe my location will be the one that re-establishes the brand to the level of an industry titan. I know that I will look forward to going back to dream land, walking into that orange-roofed building, and serving hungry people fried clams and 28 flavors. I don’t care that HOJO’s was the industry juggernaut of its day. If it were around today, it would be seen as a quaint mom and pop shop.

Articles in this Series
1. Take Me Back to Howard Johnson’s Introduction
2. Where Have All the HOJO’s Commercials Gone?
3. So You Wanna Build a HOJO’s?
4. Lake George’s Howard Johnson’s Restaurant: A Good Place to Start

Lake George’s Howard Johnson’s Restaurant: A Good Place to Start

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Howard Johnson’s Restaurants starts off in Lake George, New York. I’ll be the first to say that I had no idea there was such a town as Lake George before I began researching this topic. The first piece of information I came across was a video from CBS Sunday Morning profiling them as the last location from what was once a storied brand. Recent news reports have said that this location is up for sale; however, conflicting articles have said that it’s not. Regardless of its status, it appears that what’s left of this brand is surviving on borrowed time.

I’ve read a lot of reviews about the Lake George location and they have very little to say about it in terms of positive endorsements. It’s a shame that all people have to base their current knowledge of this brand is a location that’s on its last legs and set to get worse before it gets better. I’m hoping that they’re somehow able to turn it around, but it doesn’t seem like that’s in the cards. A brand that once was a mainstay in this country will disappear with nothing but a whimper.

Why does it have to be that way? If more people were to visit this location, they would be able to raise more money. With the money they raise, they will have the opportunity to improve the quality of their food and service. It just goes to show that if you go to something often enough, chances are it will stay open and maybe even grow. We all need to put our money where our mouths are. The feigned outrage at the idea of Howard Johnson’s disappearing forever needs to become more than just a halfhearted sentiment. We have to rise up and act unless we want this brand to disappear forever.

I will keep an eye on this story going forward. Since the operator said that this location wasn’t closing down any time soon, I’m inclined to take him at his word. Until I hear otherwise, I will sit hear waiting to see what the last crumbs in the Howard Johnson’s cookie jar have in store for the future. I know that if I’m ever in the vicinity of the Lake George HOJO’s, I will be sure to stop in for a bite. I encourage you to do the same.

Our journey through the world of Howard Johnson’s Restaurants starts off in Lake George, New York. I’ll be the first to say that I had no idea there was such a town as Lake George before I began researching this topic. The first piece of information I came across was a video from CBS Sunday Morning profiling them as the last location from what was once a storied brand. Recent news reports have said that this location is up for sale; however, conflicting articles have said that it’s not. Regardless of its status, it appears that what’s left of this brand is surviving on borrowed time.

I’ve read a lot of reviews about the Lake George location and they have very little to say about it in terms of positive endorsements. It’s a shame that all people have to base their current knowledge of this brand is a location that’s on its last legs and set to get worse before it gets better. I’m hoping that they’re somehow able to turn it around, but it doesn’t seem like that’s in the cards. A brand that once was a mainstay in this country will disappear with nothing but a whimper.

Why does it have to be that way? If more people were to visit this location, they would be able to raise more money. With the money they raise, they will have the opportunity to improve the quality of their food and service. It just goes to show that if you go to something often enough, chances are it will stay open and maybe even grow. We all need to put our money where our mouths are. The feigned outrage at the idea of Howard Johnson’s disappearing forever needs to become more than just a halfhearted sentiment. We have to rise up and act unless we want this brand to disappear forever.

I will keep an eye on this story going forward. Since the operator said that this location wasn’t closing down any time soon, I’m inclined to take him at his word. Until I hear otherwise, I will sit hear waiting to see what the last crumbs in the Howard Johnson’s cookie jar have in store for the future. I know that if I’m ever in the vicinity of the Lake George HOJO’s, I will be sure to stop in for a bite. I encourage you to do the same.

If you want to send me feedback or suggestions, you can reach me at allenglines@gmail.com.

Articles in this Series
1. Take Me Back to Howard Johnson’s Introduction
2. Where Have All the HOJO’s Commercials Gone?
3. So You Wanna Build a HOJO’s?
4. Lake George’s Howard Johnson’s Restaurant: A Good Place to Start