9 Swashbuckling Facts About Long John Silver’s
By Suzanne Raga
Ahoy, matey! Serving up fast seafood at over 1000 locations, Long John Silver’s is known for their platters of fried shrimp, cod, and chicken. Of their famous sides, they sell roughly six million pounds of hushpuppies each year.
1. THE ORIGINS OF LONG JOHN SILVER'S GO BACK TO A 1929 HAMBURGER STAND.
In Kentucky in 1929, Jerome Lederer started a tiny little hamburger stand called the White Tavern Shoppe. Lederer formed the company Jerrico Inc. and opened more restaurants, including the Jerry's Five and Dime chain. After Lederer died in 1963, Jerrico’s CEO recruited one of Jerry’s restaurant franchisees to help establish a quick-service seafood restaurant. Thus, the first Long John Silver's opened on April 16, 1969 in Lexington, Kentucky.
2. THE RESTAURANT'S NAME COMES FROM THE NOVEL TREASURE ISLAND …
Long John Silver’s is named after Long John Silver, the pirate villain in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island. Before settling on Long John Silver’s, the founders of the restaurant considered other maritime-themed names, including Limey’s and Barnacle Bill’s.
3. … BUT THE NAUTICAL THEME IS NOT JUST IN NAME ONLY.
Tatiana Mik via Flickr// CC BY-NC 2.0
Besides its name, the fast-food chain is aesthetically committed to the seafaring theme. At every Long John Silver’s location, a Captain’s Bell greets customers, who are free to ring the bell on their way out if they enjoyed their meal. Additionally, the chain’s original buildings had New England architecture and nautical decorations, further emphasizing the seaside Cape Cod vibes.
4. LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY'S BASEBALL STADIUM IS NAMED AFTER LONG JOHN SILVER'S FIRST PRESIDENT.
Before starting the first Long John Silver’s in 1969, Jim Patterson attended the University of Louisville on a baseball scholarship. After graduating college and serving in the Air Force, he became a restaurant franchisee for Jerrico Inc. As president of Long John Silver's, he helped the seafood chain grow to over 600 locations by 1976. Patterson went on to start other businesses and charities, and he donated $5 million to help construct the Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky, which opened in 2005.
5. IN 1994, THEY STEPPED OUT OF THEIR COMFORT ZONE FOR AN ADVERTISING TIE-IN.
Executives at Long John Silver’s took a page out of the McDonald's and Burger King strategy playbook and took a chance at teaming with a big movie release to do a promotion tie-in. In the summer of 1994, before the release of The Little Rascals, a commercial for Long John Silver’s featured Alfalfa telling Darla that he "procured" them a delicious shrimp and fish meal while on a romantic boat ride. The chain offered an “instant win” scratch card game, and the commercial was such a success that the company partnered with another movie—Lost in Space—four years later. That deal did not go nearly as well.
6. THE CHAIN ALMOST WENT BANKRUPT IN THE LATE 1990S.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Long John Silver’s experienced a lot of financial turmoil. The price of fish went up, and the company was bought and sold multiple times. Long John Silver’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1998, and they were sued for breach of contract for failing to pay for $3 million worth of Lost in Space toys. In 1999, the parent company of A&W Restaurants (as in the root beer) bought Long John Silver’s and created a new parent company, Yorkshire Global Restaurants.
7. THE STRUGGLE CONTINUED INTO THE 2000S AS THE COMPANY WAS RESTRUCTURED.
In 2002, Yorkshire Global Restaurants sold Long John Silver’s and A&W to Yum! Brands, a company that owned KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. In 2011, though, Yum! Brands decided to sell Long John Silver’s to LJS Partners, a group of investors and Long John Silver's franchisees which included Patterson’s children. Just three years later, LJS Partners attempted to sell Long John Silver’s, but the deal fell through. This year, Long John Silver's planned a regional reboot of the brand to coincide with Lent (their biggest sales season of the year).
8. IT'S NOT ON THE MENU, BUT YOU CAN ORDER A SIDE OF FRIED BATTER FLAKES.
A lot of the food at Long John Silver’s is fried, and those little pieces of fried batter that they sprinkle over their fish and fry platters can actually be ordered as a secret menu side dish. Called crumbs, crunchies, or crispies, the pieces of batter taste like crunchy, fried dough.
9. TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY IS A BIG DEAL AT LONG JOHN SILVER'S.
For obvious reasons, the chain loves September 19, also known as Talk Like A Pirate Day. Last year, Long John Silver's offered a free fish or chicken tender to anyone who spoke like a pirate, and gave away free fish and chicken tender baskets to people wearing basic buccaneer apparel. Bonus points to any landlubbers who tried out their online pirate name generator and stayed in character during dinner. Shiver me timbers!