Howard Johnson got his start in the hotel-and-restaurant business by doing something that we must admit we wholeheartedly approve of: he took a great ice cream recipe and made it even better – by doubling the butterfat.
Howard Johnson's (Wikimedia Commons/ Christopher Ziemnowicz)
It was Johnson's first successful business venture, a small soda shop in Quincy, Massachusetts, which he bought and immediately improved – so much so that he was able to open a second location within four years. In the decade to follow, as Johnson's business exploded, he created the concept of franchising, allowing others to open restaurants using his name. The restaurants took off, and the orange-roofed HoJo became an American favorite.
In the 1960s, Howard Johnson's became the largest restaurant chain in the U.S. By then, the company was offering a place to sleep as well as eat, in the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodges.
Though only a couple of Howard Johnson’s restaurants remain, and the HoJo motels don’t have quite the cache they once did, the iconic orange and turquoise linger in the public consciousness. Howard Johnson’s was even featured in a recent episode of Mad Men, with Don Draper declaring “I love Howard Johnson’s” before whisking his new bride away on a work-related HoJo excursion. (Sadly, Megan Draper does not share her husband’s enthusiasm, and the working vacation ends abruptly when the two quarrel over orange sherbet.)
"Mad Men" still (AMC via San Antonio Express-News)
As for Howard Johnson himself, he built his business for 35 years before retiring and leaving the daily operations to his son. But throughout his life, he maintained his love for the thing that gave him his start – ice cream. It was his favorite food, and he always kept several flavors on hand for his daily cone.
Written by Linnea Crowther and Jessica Campbell