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YUM!, A&W and Long John Silvers

Sunday, 29 May, 2011

A couple of months ago word came down that Yum Brands was seeking to divest its Long John Silvers and A&W All American Food brands. I can’t say I blame them.

LJS is a chain with a cheap image and fast-casual pricing. They serve fish which is far more expensive than when they started in 1969, and you can’t fix that. They are all about fried which in some areas is forbidden, and you can fix that, but you may as well be another restaurant. The chicken is half-assed and has always been so. You must either bring up the quality or lower the price. Neither can be done. Spin off LJS to go die in the corner.

A&W should be a great brand. In Canada, where they are operated by another enterprise entirely, and in certain pockets of the US it is a great brand. Everywhere else it is the root-beer-flavored beverage provided by the No. 4 beverage company in America. The restaurants were forgotten. The elements borrowed from Canada are interesting, such as cheese curds, but not a reason to go. In a world replete with Hamburger options, A&W offers nothing of particular interest. The “All American Food” part of the name is more than a little creepy. Exactly what is this supposed to communicate? That jukebox with the music from the first decade of the rock and roll era would be cute in 1985, but now its just misguided and irritating. Not to mention that the divestment of the A&W trademark is a time bomb.

How would I fix these? I wouldn’t. LJS should be spun off and allowed to die, or offered to Sun Capital and merged with the only sizable competition in that space Captain D’s. The objective to create a Carl’s Jr./Hardees relationship, and the only national quick-service seafood restaurant. CD-LJS should move into fast-casual as readily as can be managed.

A&W needs a reason to exist. I cannot imagine what that might be. A start would be to get rid of all of the nostalgia. A&W is selling mediocre burgers to prospective corpses. Stop that. Lose the “All American Food”. God, that’s creepy. Stop trying to be Sonic with poutine. With that, nothing remains. I suspect you’ve offered the franchise agreements to both DPS and A&W of Canada. It’s done. Write it off. Let the stores in Los Angeles and wherever else negotiate a deal with DPS to use the name and be done with it.

Now, can you fix it so I can go into a KFC and get a plate of fried chicken with, say, mashed potatoes or slaw?

  1. Graeme permalink
    Sunday, 29 May, 2011 10:40

    Last time I was in Long John Silver’s was when I was living in Kansas City. So it was probably ’03 when I went for lunch?

    I wanted to try the chain as an adult. As a kid we didn’t go there, and I didn’t really learn to eat fish until I was in my 20s. I remember my sister went to LJS once with a friend’s family, and she hated it. She was shocked by the family pouring vinegar all over the fish & their fries. I was scandalized by her report on this behavior.

    Anyway, my foray was incredibly disappointing. The fries were just coated in grease from the fish. Just bland & greasy. Horrible. No amount of salt could make them interesting to my palate. The fish was OK, but it was so greasy it didn’t even appeal to me. I was a certifiable fat guy back then, and it made me feel bad the entire remainder of the day. Ugh.

    I went to A&W a few times when I lived in Denver. I had no idea the restaurants existed, but my room mate was into the idea. I liked the glass mugs of root beer they served, and the food was always better than I expected. It was never my first choice, but I never felt bad about eating there. Once Good Times entered the picture that was always my first choice for a quick service burger.

    That reminds me that I saw a Rally’s in Los Angeles. I had no idea they were so far west! I can’t remember the last time I ate at a Rally’s… I may just have to try them if I go back to Louisville to visit this year.


    • Sunday, 29 May, 2011 15:50

      Rally’s foray into So. Cal. was during their ownership by CKE who aspired to take the Carl’s Jr. menu east. CKE even paid to make Rally’s radio and television commercials in Spanish. They didn’t last long, but the California Rally’s are now called, and I kid you not, Carl’s Jr. Jr. My last visit to a Checkers/Rally’s was in 2003 and a massive disappointment. Your mileage may vary.

      I am surprised you did not know of the A&W restaurants at all because refugees from the chain’s 1950’s might persisted in Louisville. One of the most successful restaurants is way the hell out Dixie Highway. I have been told only the Beverly Center A&W does more business.

      Everything you hated about LJS is the object of the enterprise. However, it was intended to run at about half the post-1980 price point. My experience of “seafood” in Kentucky ruined me for proper seafood out here in the world. LJS, Moby Dick, Kingfish and so on is what “fish” is in my mind. I’m ruined. Try the malt vinegar. I’m ashamed to say I go to LJS about twice a year because I just have to have it.


      • Graeme permalink
        Monday, 30 May, 2011 1:13

        I have since tried the malt vinegar. I see the appeal, but I prefer lemon.

        I remember going to Moby Dick a couple times as a kid, though we went to the Big Boy next door more often. Then again, I’m now realizing there was more than one Moby Dick location…

        I am always shocked to see it’s still operating when I go back to Louisville.

        Definitely hit Kingfish a few times. Just googled ’em & I’m surprised to see they’re still going strong.

        No thanks, though. I do like fish & chips on occasion, but I generally can do without the breading. We were eating a lot of frozen fish from Trader Joe’s for awhile, but we’ve since cut our home meat consumption to the point where it tends to be something we order when we’re out.


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