Route 66 News

Route 66 theme sparks increase in customers at restaurant

File this away under Mr. Obvious. But it’s good to see what a Route 66 theme can do for a business, all other things being equal.

A longtime restaurant in downtown Joliet, Illinois, has seen a sizable increase in the number of customers since changing to changing its name from the Joliet Restaurant to Joliet Route 66 Diner two years ago, reported Shaw Media.

Since the downtown diner transformed from a generic restaurant to a Route 66-themed destination in July 2012, Georgouses and his wife Valentina have experienced more customers, but more importantly a distinct identity tied with history and tourism. They’ve created a tourist attraction.

“I would say, about 10 to 20 percent increase in people,” Georgouses said. “We’re getting a lot of tourists [from] overseas and from western states.”

Valentina Georgouses said anywhere from 30 to 50 out-of-state and foreign tourists visit the diner every week. They come from the United States, China, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. […]

“Many tourists stop and take photos in front of the window,” John Georgouses said. “They show the pictures to friends, on Facebook and word spreads from mouth-to-mouth. That’s the most reliable way.”

It was Tom Mahalik, marketing vice president for the City Center Partnership, who came up with the idea. The area surrounding the restaurant saw a bunch of business closings, and he thought a Route 66 rebranding — coupled with the nearby Joliet Area Historical Museum and its Route 66 exhibits — made a lot of sense.

Other than the name, nothing else about the Joliet eatery changed. So the boost in business ought to give a lot of credence to local officials’ efforts to rebrand Illinois Highway 53 as Route 66.

If nothing else, this little anecdote ought to give other businesses and municipalities along the Mother Road a lot to think about.

(Image of the Joliet Route 66 Diner window by Nicolas Guillimain via Flickr)

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