Long John Silver’s is the #1 fast food seafood restaurant in the United States.
But, they’ve been struggling for decades. Long John Silver’s has lost over half their franchises since their peak. Here’s why…
The Real Reason Long John Silver’s is Struggling:
The original premise for the chain sounded good, at least on paper. During a family, vacation, businessman and restaurateur, Jim Patterson had a flash of inspiration:
Bring the sunny seaside fish and chips eating beach experience from the coast, to families nationwide.
When the chain first started, Long John Silver’s made an effort to impart each location with a seafaring theme reminiscent of the company’s vacation-inspired roots.
The company’s heyday was a ten-year period from about 1979 to 1989, during which it grew from a footprint of one thousand units to an all-time high of 1,500 locations.
Watch the full story on this episode of Company Man.
Then a String of Devastating Decline in Market share…
The chain has been on a decline since at least 1989 when, in response to mounting debt, it first took its business private. In the three decades since, it’s been handed off from one unhappy owner to another.
They’ve also been plagued with bad marketing (often self-inflicted).
For example, in 2017 they’re marketing team posted a video of a hostage being beheaded with a swordfish in an attempt to “go viral”…
They were forced to issue an apology:
On top of some marketing flops, probably the biggest failure is their lack of vision against the original mission to bring people into a coastal dinner experience.
You know that feeling you get when you have a craving for fried cod, but you also want a root beer float and a chili dog? Apparently, not too many other could relate either…
In addition to loosing half their franchises since their height, they lost 300 locations over the last 5 years alone and another 60 during the 2020 COVID lockdowns.
While millions of Americans enjoy the convenience of fast food, it appears for Long John Silver’s target audience, they preferred the original quality experience and cheap burgers over fish sandwiches.
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