Burger merger: Fatburger owner is buying Johnny Rockets for $25 million

Burger lovers, rejoice: FAT Brands, the owner of Fatburger, is buying the 1950s diner-themed chain Johnny Rockets for $25 million.

Burger lovers, rejoice: FAT Brands, the owner of Fatburger, is buying the 1950s diner-themed chain Johnny Rockets for $25 million.

Like much of the restaurant industry, FAT Brands has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic: The company said last week that sales for the second quarter plunged nearly 50%, and its stock was down nearly 25% this year before the deal was announced.

But FAT Brands' stock soared nearly 160% in early trade Thursday on the news of the Johnny Rockets purchase. FAT Brands also owns Elevation Burger, Hurricane Grill & Wings and the Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses chains.

Johnny Rockets, which had been owned by private equity firm Sun Capital Partners, is known for its retro feel as well as decadent burgers and milkshakes. The company opened its first restaurant in 1986 on LA's famous Melrose Avenue.

However, Americans' tastes have changed. More consumers, especially younger diners, are shunning meat. Johnny Rockets' menu does include a black bean burger, but there are no trendy plant-based offerings such as those popularized by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

FAT Brands hinted that it might shake things up at Johnny Rockets. Andy Wiederhorn, CEO of FAT Brands, said in a statement Thursday that FAT Brands is "eager to take the brand to new heights."

Once the deal closes, which should be in September, FAT Brands will have more than 700 restaurant locations worldwide and total annual sales of more than $700 million.

And in case you were wondering, the FAT in FAT Brands isn't meant to describe what happens if you eat the company's burgers. It's an acronym that stands for Fresh. Authentic. Tasty.

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