Long John Silver's, Inc., is a United States-based fast-food restaurant. The name of the brand is borrowed from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, in which the pirate "Long John" Silver is one of the main characters. Formerly a division of Yum! Brands, Inc., the company was divested to a group of franchisees in 2011.
The first restaurant was opened on August 18, 1969, in Lexington, Kentucky. The original location, on 301 Southland Drive just off Nicholasville Road, was previously a seafood carry-out restaurant named the Cape Codder. The original Cape Codder concrete block building was redesigned by Architect Druce Henn, who created the New England style of LJS's early chain restaurants. That original location is now a styling salon. The chain began as a division of Jerrico, Inc., a publicly owned corporation, which also operated Jerry's Restaurants, a chain of family restaurants which also began in Lexington, and that was very similar to Big Boy restaurants. Jerry's was located in the Midwest and Southern United States. The original restaurant concept was developed by Jerrico and a Jerry's Restaurant franchisee. Choices for the restaurant name were 'Limey's, Barnacle Bill's, and Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppes. When the company was sold in 1989 and became a privately owned corporation, the Long John Silver's concept had far outgrown the Jerry's chain. Most of Jerry's 46 remaining locations were converted to Denny's by the new owners, with a handful staying under the original name, usually because an existing Denny's was already nearby. Only a dozen or so, now called Jerry's J-Boy Restaurants, are still open in Kentucky and southern Indiana. LJS stores were largely unaffected by this move. (Many original LJS franchisees were also operators of Jerry's locations.).
Earlier restaurants were known for their Cape Cod-style buildings, blue roofs with square cupolas, wood benches/tables, lobster pots, and ship's wheels. Later, more nautically-themed decorations were added such as seats made to look like nautical flags. Those early restaurants also featured separate entrance and exit doors, a corridor-like waiting line area, deep fryer with food heaters that were transparent so customers could see the food waiting to be served, and wrought iron 'sword' door handles. A major exterior theme of these buildings had dock-like walkways lined with pilings and thick ropes. Somewhat newer restaurants kept the basic structural design and theme, but eliminated most of the interior features. The contemporary, multi-brand outlets do not use the blue-roofed Cape Cod-style buildings. All current locations have an "if we did well, ring the bell" bell by the exit, a feature that was later copied by Arby's. Originally, the chain had a much larger focus on a pirate theme. For example, the chain once offered small chicken drumsticks which they called "peg-legs", but now offer chicken fingers known as "Chicken Planks". The chain does still offer kids paper pirate hats with LJS's logo.
The restaurant, which has over 1,200 units worldwide, was formerly a division of Yum! Brands, Inc. The company purchased it from Yorkshire Global Restaurants, which originally acquired it from Fleet Boston Bank after its having gained control of the restaurants due to a 1998 bankruptcy. After Jerrico sold the company, many of the corporate locations were combined with A&W Restaurants, and most new Long John Silver's locations in the first few years after the acquisition were co-branded with A&W. Yum!, after purchasing Long John Silver's/A&W, announced in 2005 that it would expand the multibrand concept and pair Long John Silver's with KFC, just as they had paired Taco Bell and Pizza Hut along with A&W, and Long John Silver's was since paired with all of Yum!'s other chains. The parent corporation of the chain's Canadian franchises, which have no connection with A&W in Canada, was Priszm before its bankruptcy and eventual sale of all assets.
As Yum! Brands began putting more money in its other brands, the investment in smaller brands like Long John Silver's and A&W was reduced. With the anticipated shrinkage in sales, on January 18, 2011, Yum! Brands announced its intention to sell Long John Silver's, along with its A&W Restaurant chain. Citing poor sales for both divisions, the company plans to focus on its international expansion plans for its other brands, with particular emphasis on its growth in China. With the announcement of the intent to sell by Yum! Brands, a group consisting of Long John Silver's franchisees and other private investors made a successful bid to buy the LJS Brand and in September 2011, Yum! announced the impending sale to LJS Partners LLC.
In March 2015, James O'Reilly, who had previously worked for KFC, was appointed as the CEO. In an interview, he said that he intended to strengthen the core business and solidify the brand. He expected the chain to maintain its 1,132 stores during the year with the possibility of future expansion.
Long John Silver's food offerings include platters, sandwiches, and various single items. The platters feature seafood as the main item, with side dishes consisting of coleslaw, hushpuppies, corn, green beans, and French fries (chips) or batter-fried onion rings. Seafood items include fish, clams, and shrimp, with chicken fingers known as "Chicken Planks". More recently, the brand began offering baked cod as a lower-calorie option. The restaurants also sell dessert offerings as separate items, which include pineapple cream cheese and chocolate cream pies and cookies.
Before being bought by Yum! Brands in late 2002, Long John Silver's sold Coca-Cola products. They began to switch over to Pepsi products the following year when Yum! Brands began to open new restaurants.
Customers also have the option to "add a piece", which the company promotes in its advertising and on its website.
In July 2013, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition and health policy watchdog group, named Long John Silver's "Big Catch" meal the worst restaurant meal in America, noting that it contained 33 grams of trans fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, 1,320 calories, and almost 3,700 milligrams of sodium. In January 2014, the company announced that it had eliminated trans fats from its menu.