For more than seven decades American roads were dotted with the familiar orange roof and blue cupola of the ubiquitous Howard Johnson’s restaurants and Motor Lodges. The company’s founder and namesake was a grade school dropout who became a franchising pioneer and introduced the restaurant industry to centralized purchasing. Johnson repeated his formula with motor lodges, creating one of the world’s largest hotel chains.
In 1965 Howard Johnson’s sales exceeded the combined sales of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. By 1979 the “Host of the Highways” had become the largest hospitality company in America, with more than 1,000 restaurants and 500 motor lodges. But the company saw a decline of its rule over the roadways in the 1970s after a series of events destroyed the company’s earnings.
Over the last decade and under new ownership “HoJo” hotels have thrived, but the final dozen restaurants were left to rot. Today all have closed, except one.