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Hojovend

A HoJo's vending machine in 2017

Canton11

The Canton, MA. prototype location. The cupola, unseen, was placed on the ground.

Afton1

Some locations chose not to update, like this in Afton, VA, seen in 2008...

Bennington

...this Bennington, VT location, which rejoined the chain when FAI came, in 2006...

Kirkwood30

...this Kirkwood, MO location, seen in 2009...

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...and this location in Waterbury, CT, in 2018.

By 1985, Howard Johnson's was a struggling company, mainly with its restaurants, with its lodging chain making more money. All seemed lost, until the franchisees formed a company, called Franchise Associates, Inc., and bought both chains, having originally considered buying just the restaurant chain, in early 1986. FAI then decided that they needed to update the two chains.

Updates

The first restaurant to be owned and operated by FAI was in Canton, MA., which was a prototype location in the late 1940s. They decided to update the location a bit in 1990, with a new logo, and added an exaggerated pointed arch entryway. The interior kept its furniture, but added TVs and photos of older locations. Also, they tweaked the menu a bit and, seeing that competitor Baskin-Robbins had 31 flavors whereas HoJo's had 28, decided to add ten more flavors, including six vegan options, to make it 38 flavors. FAI convinced not just existing franchisees to add the arch, but also enticed new franchisees to join the chain. They even brought back Simple Simon and the Pieman, who had been introduced in the 20s, but dormant since the 70s. The motor lodge chain went back to having an A-frame gatehouse and had four floors on the hotels. FAI had suceeded in regaining HoJo's former luster, and by 1995, had over 10,000 locations.

Key people

George Carter-CEO

Arthur Barrett-President from 1986 to 1999

Barbara Leveroni-President from 1999 to 2008

Ron Butler-President from 2008 to 2015

Holly DeSantis-Current president

Advertising

The commercials have an animated version of Simple Simon and the Pieman (or Lamplighter for motor lodges and the Pilot for the airline) in various situations promoting the company's latest dishes. This campaign has been going on since 2015 for the chain's 90th anniversary, and features the voices of Alanna Ubach as Simple Simon, Frank Welker as the dog, Rob Paulsen as the Pieman, Rodger Bumpass as the Lamplighter, and Tom Kenny as the Pilot. The slogan is: "Go Happy, Go HoJo's," and the commercials typically end with an exterior shot of a restaurant, a motor lodge, or a plane, depending on the chain. On February 16th, 2003, before the start of the 2003 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt, a regular customer at the restaurant franchise, endorsed HoJo's as his favorite restaurant chain by running an orange paint scheme.

Controversy

In 2007, a rat was found in someone's salad in a location in Kirkwood, MO, and HoJo's was forced to pay back $100,000 in damages.

In 2013, there were accusations of sexual harassment among female employees at the Afton, VA location, resulting in a lawsuit. The case was settled a year later.

In March 2017, HoJo's official Twitter account had a tweet to Donald Trump reading, "You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands." However, George Carter confirmed that the HoJo's Twitter was hacked by an angry Hillary Clinton supporter a day later in a press release.

The following month, maggots were supposedly found in a cheeseburger in a location in Nashua, NH, and the location had to close for a week. It turned out the location was completely safe, leading many to believe that the customer only wanted money. In a statement, CEO George Carter said, "HoJo's is devoted to making quality food, and we apologize for the controversy."

In October, John LaRock, owner of the Lake George HoJo's, was arrested, charged, and jailed for sexually abusing his female employees. Ownership of the location was handed back to the DeSantis family in November.

Sponsorships

In 1996, HoJo's was a sponsor of the Alanta Olympics. That same year, the company began its NASCAR sponsorship, with the #27 of Elton Sawyer. Since 1997, HoJo's has sponsored the #31 Richard Childress Racing entry, which has had, Mike Skinner from 1997-2001, Robby Gordon from 2001-2004, Jeff Burton from 2004-2013, and Ryan Newman since 2014, driving. HoJo's also sponsored Dale Earnhardt's car on the rear corner-panels during 2002's "The Winston" event, doing so again in 2003.

In 2008, HoJo's also sponsored the Beijing Olympics.

HoJo's also sponsors the IndyCar Series, and owns the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Lakers.
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A Hojo's gate lodge in West Boylston, MA.

Pop culture references

HoJo's has made a name for itself in pop culture. For example, in the Family Guy episode "An Untitled Griffin Family History," Peter Griffin mentions HoJo's in one scene. Several songwriters have also done songs based on HoJo's.

MadTV also once did a sketch on HoJo's, as did Robot Chicken.

In 2012, a HoJo's location in Baldwin Park, CA appeared on Mad Men. There have also been several clues on Jeopardy! about HoJo's.
Hojo1990

The Howard Johnson's logo from 1990 to 2015.

Lakeplacid1

Some locations, like this in Lake Placid, NY, seen in 2009, remodeled their exteriors in such a way their orange roofs had only a trace left.

Times Square-Howard Johnson

The Times Square HoJo's in 2010

Howard Johnsons Times Square

That same HoJo's in 2017.

Hojolexington

A HoJo's in Lexington, VA, in 2001...

Lex17

...and again in 2017 after renovations.

Plattsburgh8

A HoJo's in Plattsburgh, NY, in 2005.

Criticism

HoJo's has had many false criticisms, mostly from people who despise large corporations. One criticism involved HoJo's ice cream. On April Fool's Day 2012, a joke email was sent that the milk "actually comes from a mutant cow, with no faces, no limbs, no fur, and no tails, and makes weird sounds when mooing." Almost no one got in on the joke. Rivals like Dairy Queen relished in the chaos and made it clear in their ads. The person who created the email confirmed it was a joke and not only apologized to the people, but HoJo's itself.

Another criticism involved how the restaurants were run. Due to the Afton sexual harassment suit, news stories came out that the male employees were "always pinching young females, ages 5-25, at about 95% of HoJo's locations, whether it's in a restaurant, a motor lodge, or an airline, got orders wrong too often, served substandard food, kept awful smells at the locations, and didn't keep their environment neat." However, then-president Ron Butler confirmed the stories were fake, in an official press release the next day.

In December 2016, George Carter accidentally ran over a 10-year-old boy, who suffered an injured leg as a result. The boy thought it was on purpose, and his family filed a lawsuit against Carter. When Carter confessed, however, the case was immediately dropped, much to the dismay of the boy and his family, who still hold the accident against Barrett and have swore never to eat at HoJo's again untill "that old ugly predator" gets fired. This led many people to question whether "we need old stuffy coots to run HoJo's."
Baycity4

A HoJo's in Bay City, MI, in 2011.

HoJo's also briefly came under fire from animal rights activist group PeTA, who got secret undercover footage of workers abusing cows and other animals used to make meat, in January 2001. Later that month, HoJo's agreed to change the way their suppliers were run. In 2008, workers protested for higher wages and better care from HoJo's, who agreed. Before, the workers claimed that they were paid well below the legal mininum wage and were only allowed to go to the restroom at certain times.
Nashua17

A HoJo's in Nashua, NH, in 2007...

Nashua4

...the same HoJo's again in 2017, celebrating its 50th anniversary, and around the time of the maggot controversy...

Nashua2

...and one of its signs in 2016, shortly before its restoration.

Milford16

A HoJo's in Milford, CT, in 2003.

Frontroya10

A HoJo's in Front Royal, VA, in 2013.

Lakeharmony12

A HoJo's in Lake Harmony, PA, in 2010, a year before the restaurant was restored to its 70s look.

Kirkwood14

A HoJo's in Wilmington, DE, in 2015.

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A HoJo's in Millington, MD, in 2016.

Free-vector-primestar 064809 primestar

The chain bought Primestar in 1994. Today, Primestar is the biggest satellite company in America.

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A HoJo's in Springfield, VT, in 2014.

Savannah

A HoJo's in Savannah, GA, in 2006.

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A HoJo's in St. Augustine, FL, 2017.

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A HoJo's in Concord, MA, 1999

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A HoJo's sign in Asbury Park, NJ, in 2010.

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A HoJo's in Lake George, NY, in 2016.

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A Hojo's in Bangor, MN, circa 2011.

Present Day

The chain bought Primestar in 1994, brought back Howard Johnson's Cola (renamed HJ Cola) in 1995, and bought Blockbuster in 1996. They also surpassed McDonald's as the #1 restaurant in 1997 and became a Fortune 100 company at that time. The chain continues to grow economically, and has over 60,000 restaurants and 45,000 motor lodges worldwide. In February 2007, parent company FAI rebranded themselves as The Howard Johnson Company, after the parent company of HoJo's from 1925 to 1985. HoJo's also formed an airline, Howard Johnson's Airlines, two years later.

Newlook

A render of a typical HoJo's canopy gate lodge, a design enacted in 1986 to give it its own identity.

List of notables who have endorsed HoJo's

  • Will Smith
  • Dale Earnhardt
  • James Woods
  • Adam West
  • Mark Hamill
  • Trey Parker
  • Walter Jones
  • Bo Derek
  • Felicia Day
  • Doug Walker
  • Jim Bakker
  • Regis Philbin
  • James Rolfe
  • Katy Perry
  • Joel Hodgson
  • Mike Skinner
  • Ryan Newman
  • Mike Pollock
  • Keanu Reeves
  • George Carlin
  • George Clooney
  • Jaleel White
  • Florence Henderson
  • Erik Estrada
  • Johnny Depp
  • Nicki Minaj
  • James Franco
  • Tommy Wiseau
  • Greg Sestero
  • Robert De Niro
  • Snoop Dogg
  • Donald Trump
  • Martin Sheen
  • Richard Dawson
  • Jane Lynch
  • Jack Black
  • Mel Brooks
  • Natalie Wood
  • Vivica A. Fox
  • Dan Castellaneta
  • Christopher Lloyd
  • Miranda Cosgrove
  • Virgil
  • Alex Trebek
  • Pat Sajak
  • Roseanne Barr
  • John Goodman
  • Kevin Murphy
  • Bill Corbett
  • Michael J. Nelson
  • Haley Joel Osment
  • Frank Caliendo
  • Keegan Michael-Key
  • Louie Anderson
  • Mos Def
  • Jack Black
  • Crispin Glover
  • Will Ferrell
  • Alfonso Ribero
  • Tom Cruise
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • C. Thomas Howell
  • Robyn Paris
  • Francesca Marie Smith
  • Seth Rogen
  • Bob Saget
  • Tom Bergeron