It's a sad day in the hospitality industry: the last remaining Howard Johnson's restaurant has officially closed. Located in Lake George, New York, a scenic resort town in the Adirondack Mountains, this is the last of an iconic family restaurant chain that served hungry travelers on America's highways (including the Pennsylvania Turnpike) since the 1920s. The company also operated motels, some of which are still in business, and are now owned by Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.
Nicknamed "HoJo's" by its millions of loyal customers, Howard Johnson's was an early adopter of many restaurant chain marketing techniques that are commonplace today. Every location had an instantly recognizable bright orange roof that could be seen for miles, and menu choices were consistent across the country. In addition to typical roadside fare like burgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes, HoJo's was famous for its fried clams and 28 flavors of ice cream.
The company's heyday was during America's prosperous postwar period in the 1950s and 1960s -- which explains why it was the perfect setting for an episode of the television series Mad Men. Howard Johnson's was quick to capitalize on the franchising trend that also introduced some of its fiercest competitors: McDonald's, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, among many others. In recent years, HoJo's failed to attract a new generation of customers and could not compete with other casual dining brands like Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday's, TGIFriday's, and the Cheesecake Factory. But all of these chains succeeded by learning lessons from Howard Johnson's many innovations.