The downhill slide of Johnny Rockets

So yesterday was another date night.  Dinner and a movie.  We saw A Star Is Born, yeah there’s going to be some Oscars distributed with that film attached to the statues.  No question.

Before the movie, we stopped at the l9ocal Johnny Rockets retro diner in Crossgates Mall for a nice little late afternoon / early evening meal.

Now if you’ve ever eaten at a Johnny Rockets retro diner, you know the drill.  The server will take your order and, after the order is taken, the server will leave you some nickels that you can put in the jukebox stations that are sitting at your tabletop.  When your appetizers arrive, the server will take some ketchup and squirt a little smiley face in a little dish.  And while the music blares throughout the restaurant, at some point in time all the waitstaff will get together and perform aline dance or some sort of choreographed performance.  It’s part of the Johnny Rockets aesthetic.

So I was surprised to see that … apparently in the Crossgates Mall Johnny Rockets … something was a bit off.

Follow me on this.

We sat down at a booth.  And as we chatttd with each other, I siad, “Something’s not right here.”

“What do you mean?”

“Where’s the music?  There should be a whole bunch of 50’s and 60’s retro music playing in this diner, I don’t hear a single song right now.”

We both chalked it up as maybe someone didn’t put a nickel in the jukebox yet.

Our server came over and took our order. No nickels for the table.  Hmm.

Okay, what else is missing?

She brought our food … which did have French fries and onion rings, which were tasty … but there was no smiley face ketchup art in a little dipping tray for us.


In fact, outside of the visual atmosphere – which still looked like a retro chrome-coated diner from the 1960 – this could hvae been any generic diner / restaurant anywhere.  It was almost as if a Hooters restaurant allowed the waitstaff to ditch the corporate uniforms of orange shorts, crop tops and suntan pantyhose for just generic clothing and wardrobe.

It wasn’t the Johnny Rockets to which I had become familiar.

After our meal, when I went to pay for the food, I asked about some of the missing accents.  One of the waitstaff mentioned that the sound system wasn’t working, or that it gets drowned out with all the other noise and sounds in the mall, or something like that.  And that the staff does dance to the music – but not during peak hours.  Umm… yeah.

Look, I get it.  Chain restaurants have to do something to stand out.

But in this case, what made Johnny Rockets stand out as a cute, kitschy eatery in the mall…

It just wasn’t there.

Now maybe I arrived at an off night, but still…

This just wasn’t what I expected.

And I expected more.