Long John Silver’s tries brand transformation with grilled items, soft-serve and redesign

Long John Silver’s tries brand transformation with grilled items, soft-serve and redesign

Digital drive-thru menus help drive traffic at test sites

Long John Silver’s is in the throes of its busiest season, Lent, but after Easter the nation’s largest quick-service seafood chain plans to push ahead with a brand transformation that includes new exteriors and interiors, a high-tech digital drive-thru menu board and, for the first time, grilled seafood items and soft-serve.

“This is part of our brand transformation,” said CEO James O’Reilly, who has led the chain since early 2015.

Louisville, Ky.-based Long John Silver’s has been struggling in recent years with declining sales and a shrinking unit count, but O’Reilly hopes to turn that around with a new look and new items that all will be on display at the chain’s new flagship store slated to open in Louisville at the beginning of March.

The grilled seafood items — $7.99 plated meals with a choice of either wild Alaska Pink salmon or shrimp on a bed of rice, choice of two sides and hushpuppies — are currently available at 54 locations that have installed grills to cook them on, but O’Reilly said they’d be rolled out at more of the chain’s roughly 1,000 locations over the course of the next two years.

Most Long John Silver’s locations are franchised, but Reilly said that around 120 were company owned.

The seafood is cooked on flat-top griddles with proprietary seasoning and have “slightly crisp exterior and really juicy interior,” O’Reilly said.

Apart from the plated meals, Long John Silver’s locations will offer grilled seafood tacos at around $1 to $2 apiece as well as bowls including rice and coleslaw in three flavors: Southwest Baja with roasted corn-black bean blend, cilantro and a spicy sauce; Pico with pico de gallo, lime vinaigrette and cilantro; and Asian Sweet Chili with sweet chile sauce and cilantro.

O’Reilly said they’d be priced in line with other bowls currently on the market.

Both the tacos and the bowls will debut at the new Louisville flagship. So will the new soft-serve platform, featuring cones, shakes, sundaes and mix-ins.

“We’re expecting to have a very good summer with them,” O’Reilly said, noting that the frozen treats should be beneficial both for incremental sales during meal times and for between-meal snacks.  

That location also will display a new digital drive-thru menu.  That the company has said will be introduced to up to 400 locations over the next two years.

The menu will be made of three 55-inch high-definition video screens and computers that will allow nearly-instant menu changes, possibly allowing for customization based on customers’ individual preferences or to highlight limited-time offers. The screens were developed by Allure, a division of Christie Digital Systems USA.

The new restaurant design features the chain’s signature blue and yellow color scheme and nautical touches such as a ship’s railing on the outside and cues in the interior highlighting the origins of the chain’s seafood, the Bering Sea in Alaska.

O’Reilly said that the restaurants where the drive-thru menus are in place enjoyed double-digit sales growth.

“It’s an attention grabber for customers who might not have seen [Long John Silver’s] in a while,” he said.

He added that the new grills and renovations would start being implemented after Easter.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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