Redskins owner to buy '50s-style diner chain

Updated: February 9, 2007, 12:08 PM ET
Associated Press

McLEAN, Va. -- Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said Friday he will buy Johnny Rockets, the 1950s-style diner chain that features burgers, fries and a wait staff that dances and sings to oldies tunes.

Snyder's investment arm, RedZone Capital Fund II, will acquire the Lake Forest, Calif.-based chain, which operates more than 200 restaurants nationwide. Terms of the purchase were not released.

The move is the latest push into entertainment-themed businesses by Snyder, who made a fortune in marketing and operates the NFL's most profitable team.

In 2005, he took over amusement park operator Six Flags Inc., which has since embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign to revive sagging attendance. Last year, Snyder agreed to finance actor Tom Cruise's production company after it was dropped by Paramount Pictures.

Snyder said in a statement that he expects Johnny Rockets to grow significantly in the coming years. That includes plans for a series of smaller Johnny Rockets Express restaurants that will serve the chain's staple of burgers, fries and milkshakes. They will be cheaper too, with capital expenses of $300,000 compared to $750,000 for a full restaurant.

"There's no reason we shouldn't expect see 1,000 Johnny Rockets locations within the next five years," Snyder said in a statement.

Johnny Rockets was founded in Los Angeles in 1986 and tries to reclaim the 1950s heyday of diners and drugstore malt shops. Every half hour, waiters and waitresses dressed in white with black bow ties and paper hats groove to classic tunes. Juke boxes on the tables cost a nickel.

The chain has grown fast, expanding at a rate of 20 percent each year. It now operates in 29 states and nine countries, with eight restaurants aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press