Johnny Rockets Targets Millennials with new Fast-Casual Concept

By Michelle Castillo, Social Media Coordinator


Johnny Rockets has always been a great place to go when you’re with your family, on vacation or enjoying a special occasion. However, imagine a Johnny Rockets with a Millennial-focused, fast-casual concept with faster service and customization. Ladies and gentlemen, the chain is bringing you just that.

Johnny Rockets launched a future sub-brand called Johnny’s Burger Factory. The first of two company locations to open this year is located at the Walden Galleria mall in Buffalo, N.Y. in a 1,000 square feet space. The second location is planned to open in November outside Syracuse, N.Y.

“This is targeted to deliver a better-burger experience in a more Millennial-friendly environment,” said James Walker, Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Johnny Rockets president of global operations and development.

So what makes this place so different from Johnny Rockets? Essentially, the Burger Factory is a little more hip, daring and cheeky focusing on burgers, fries, shakes and new hand-breaded chicken tenders and onion rings.

The company also made things very digital. Consumers don’t come in waiting for someone to take their order. They do it themselves using a touch-screen kiosks. With this technology, a guest can build their own burger and use a self-serve “sauce bar” that displays eights different dipping sauces to pair with their chicken tenders, fries or onion rings. I can’t imagine Millennials will have a problem with having so much power. (Except for spending too much time at the kiosk toying with different options. Good luck, line-goers!)

Because the kitchens will also gets pretty fancy with technology, Walker said the concept can deliver made-to-order burger with fries in less than four minutes. How is this sorcery possible? The kitchen’s new technology includes “clamshell cooking” systems that can cook a burger patty in one minute along with faster fryers. In the future, the company also plans to add technologies that make baked-in-house buns and house-made ice cream doable.

Restaurants will have a video wall and digital menu board that resembles a handwritten chalkboard. The staff will wear jeans, T-shirts and butcher-style aprons. There will be Coke Freestyle machines on the soda side available as well as milk shakes. Prices aren’t too shabby either, the average check is around $10 per person, keeping it Johnny Rockets style.

For the booze fans, Johnny’s Burger Factory will open without beer or wine, however, the service will be added about 45 days after opening. And to make it even more exciting, the company is going to get creative with a float made with Guinness beer. The Burger Factory will also be keeping up with the craft beer trend: four craft beers will be on tap.

Over the last few years, Johnny Rockets has been testing the waters with fast-casual modifications under past management teams, including JR’s Burger Grill in 2012.  The now-closed casual-dining chain was obtained by Sun Capital Partners Inc. a private-equity firm in 2013.

The 344-unit chain introduced a new Route 66-inspired prototype with numerous formats. A Johnny Rockets Express, which is a QSR concept is also growing and opening up in nontraditional locations such as college campuses. The company will continue with this these formats but the Burger Factory is a completely different variation.

In the better-burger world, there isn’t a lot of variety nor that many different approaches. Charles Bruce, who was named president and CEO of Johnny Rockets agrees but has plans for Burger Factory to separate from all the monotony. The concept will also be targeting the Hispanic community which is growing seven times the rate of the general population. How will the company cater to this group? Hispanic customers usually like to eat out in large groups. Burger Factory will have more adjustable seating with community tables. Other better-burger chains may need to step aside.

“There’s a lot of demand for it. Consumers like it, and, like everything else in the restaurant industry, it’s about meeting needs,” Bruce said. “We feel this will meet changing needs most effectively.”

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