Long John Silver's 5
Hollis Johnson

Heavy is the head that wears the crown of largest seafood restaurant in the US.

Long John Silver’s is a 48-year-old chain with a long history of serving up fried fish and other seafood inspired fare.

However, in recent years, the chain has experienced significant struggles. Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, sold the chain to franchisee groups in 2011, after the chain — along with sibling brand A&W — failed to substantially grow under Yum’s nine years of ownership.

In 2015, CEO James O’Reilly said the chain needed to “fix what we’ve got,” a promise that the company has followed up with store redesigns, new uniforms, and fresh leadership.

Turning around a chain that seems past its prime is no easy accomplishment. In an effort to see what exactly Long John Silver’s needs to “fix,” Business Insider visited a location in Staunton, Virginia.

Arriving at the Long John Silver’s/A&W co-branded location — one of many that were created under Yum Brand’s leadership — hopes of a true seafaring experience were quickly squashed.

Arriving at the Long John Silver's/A&W co-branded location — one of many that were created under Yum Brand's leadership — hopes of a true seafaring experience were quickly squashed.
Hollis Johnson

The location immediately felt grubby and claustrophobic. Still, it takes a lot of scare us off — this was the 10th chain restaurant we had visited in 48 hours, and sometimes the finest fare lurks behind the most questionable counters.

The location immediately felt grubby and claustrophobic. Still, it takes a lot of scare us off — this was the 10th chain restaurant we had visited in 48 hours, and sometimes the finest fare lurks behind the most questionable counters.
Hollis Johnson

Walking up to the counter, my colleague and I were told by an exhausted cashier it was going to be a significant wait. A few minutes later, she locked the restaurant’s door, hanging a sign: “Closed for 30 mins. VAT has shut down. Sorry.”

Walking up to the counter, my colleague and I were told by an exhausted cashier it was going to be a significant wait. A few minutes later, she locked the restaurant's door, hanging a sign:
Hollis Johnson

Sipping on A&W root beer — which remains a nostalgic treat, as delicious today as it was in childhood — we hoped the food would be worth the wait.

Sipping on A&W root beer — which remains a nostalgic treat, as delicious today as it was in childhood — we hoped the food would be worth the wait.
Hollis Johnson

Almost 20 minutes later, our food was ready:…