“Roy Rogers? Really? I didn't know they were still around,” my friend said as we pulled through the drive-thru for some post-rehearsal fries.
That is exactly the perception Jim Plamondon and Peter Plamondon Jr., co-presidents of The Plamondon Companies in Frederick, Maryland, have been striving to change along the East Coast.
The brothers own and manage select service Marriott hotels as well as the trademark and franchise system for Roy Rogers Restaurants.
“New Jersey and New York were extremely popular (locations) for the brand in its heyday, with over 150 restaurants in the metropolitan area,” Jim Plamondon said.
In 1968, their father Peter — then a vice president with the Marriott Corporation — became involved with the brand due to its All-American branding and simple product offerings of hamburgers, roast beef sandwiches and fried chicken.
Peter Plamondon Sr. believed so strongly in Roy Rogers that he left Marriott to open his own franchisee in Maryland in 1980, just as the brand grew to 648 restaurants and extreme popularity in the mid-Atlantic region.
Unfortunately, the chain faltered when Hardee’s purchased the brand from Marriott in the 1990s to convert its locations. When they were unsuccessful, Hardee’s began selling off the real estate to competing brands such as Burger King and Wendy’s.
“That is why the number of units shrank dramatically over the decade or so in which they were the franchisor,” Jim Plamondon said.
The Plamondons purchased the chain in its entirety in 2002 when there were only 75 restaurants left.
In 2014, the Plamondon brothers believed it was due time to expand once more.
“Customers outside of Maryland started requesting Roy Rogers Restaurants,” Jim Plamondon said, “We have been concentrating our efforts on repopulating the East Coast where the brand once was dominant.”
They’re betting high on New Jersey. Aside from its 22 locations in Maryland, New Jersey currently has the most Roy Rogers open and in planning, with 11, compared with the five in New York and Pennsylvania and the single unit in West Virginia.
“The turnout over the summer was remarkable in places such as Brick, Edison and Flemington,” Jim Plamondon said. “We are obviously interested in New Jersey due to the population density, but the state is also a fairly affluent market. We are not exactly a coupon-oriented brand with a dollar menu, because we believe we have quality products.”
Social media has even played a more increasing role for customers in the area.
“Glad to see you guys coming back with locations more than just at Turnpike and Parkway rest stops,” one Facebook user said on a post announcing the new Brick location this past summer.
Today, there are about 50 locations nationwide and plans in place to grow to about 75 over the next couple of years in states such as New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida and Ohio.
“As we open these restaurants, there is a great nostalgia for the brand,” Jim Plamondon said. “We are bringing Roy Rogers back.”