The True Meaning Behind Johnny Rockets' Name

When a hamburger craving strikes, you likely have a few favorite casual burger spots in your city. You may even fancy a specific style or type of burger. There are so many places to choose from — often with curious restaurant names dedicated to the glorious ground beef placed between a bun with all the delicious condiments — that you likely haven't thought too much about why they choose that name.

But most restaurants do have a reason behind their moniker. The Los Angeles Times reported that Ronn Teitelbaum, the owner of Johnny Rockets, opened the first restaurant in Los Angeles in 1986 with the goal of serving up delicious burgers, fries, shakes, and malts and recreating simpler times.

When it came to crafting the name, Teitelbaum wanted to conjure an all-American appeal. He was inspired by the past and a bit of folk history to help him come up with the name, according to the article Business View.

A classic American folk hero and a V-8 engine served as inspiration

Ronn Teitelbaum was inspired by his childhood to create a place like Johnny Rockets. According to Los Angeles Times, as a child, he spent every night at midnight at Incline, a 24-hour restaurant in Santa Monica, where he'd wait with his mother to pick up his father after his work shift. During the war, many restaurants were open all hours to assist with workers ending their shifts and having access to a bite to eat. 

The name Johnny is inspired by Johnny Appleseed, the well-known United States folk hero (via Business View). Naming the restaurant Johnny Appleseed may have worked, but may not quite fit a cool, retro-themed casual burger chain where you can chomp down on comforting burgers. So Teitelbaum fused the name with Rockets, and according to an article in Mental Floss, was inspired and refers to an ad campaign for the Oldsmobile 88 rocket, a car model for the brand Oldsmobile, which began production in 1949.

Can you get much more Americana than fusing a folk hero with a high-powered V-8 engine?