Since opening its doors in 1986, Johnny Rockets expanded to more than 26 countries, from Brazil to Bahrain and Pakistan to Panama.
This year, the brand is on track to achieve record international growth with a total of 40 new restaurants opening outside the U.S. The modern American restaurant features a menu of all-American fare that includes made-to-order hamburgers and sandwiches, fries, onion rings, and hand-spun shakes.
"A contributing factor to our success overseas is the restaurant industry experience of our international franchisees, as well as an in-depth understanding of their local cuisine and flavor preferences in the countries where they operate," explains Scott Chorna, senior vice president of international development.
"Our ability to adapt to each country's preferences and needs, whether that be enhancements to menu items or providing support with unique prototype development, is attractive to franchise owners when we enter a new country. With that in mind, we work closely with all of our owners and operators to create and offer very specific regional preparations or sauces that complement our American dishes, while maintaining the integrity of our core menu,” he says.
As a way to accommodate local palates, Johnny Rockets works with franchisees to augment the concept's base offerings of popular American cuisine. Some examples of popular permanent local dishes include a fajita salad in Honduras, a wasabi shake in the Philippines, and nachos in Mexico City. Other menu additions include a garlic hamburger in South Korea and a popular Spam burger available at all six Johnny Rockets restaurants in the Philippines.
"We knew India would be a challenge for our traditionally beef-based brand,” Chorna says. “However, when we replaced ground beef with tenderloin, created more chicken options, and added tandoori flavoring to our fries, we knew it was a win for all.”
“In fact, it surprises many people to know that our Middle Eastern restaurants, including nine in Kuwait and four in Pakistan, offer the identical menu to that found in the United States,” Chorna adds. “The key is that these menu items are Halal certified, and we offer a pork-free bacon alternative. Our franchisees know their customers and know what they like. Who else would have known that avocado shakes would be so popular in Indonesia?"
As the brand continues its international expansion, it will remain committed to serving its All-American menu items, as well as customizing options based on franchisee and local consumer requests. With more than 120 restaurants operating outside the U.S. today, Johnny Rockets plans to double that number by 2017 as part of its global strategy.