HOUSTON, TX – Prince tried it. So did Ron Artest. The big name change. Now a Houston institution is giving it a go.
James Coney Island, a Houston staple for 90 years, is changing their moniker to the hipper “JCI Grill.”
“I think that they shouldn’t change their name because they’ve been around for 90 years,” says Denisse Guillen, who ate there for the first time today, “and that’s sort of a trademark of theirs.”
“People are already calling us JCI as a nickname,” says company president Darrin Straughan, “A lot of our customers go, ‘Hey, let’s go eat at JCI,’ so we thought using our nickname and adding the ‘Grill’ to it would be kinda hip and cute, but it would also let people know that we have other items on our menu, other than our Coneys and chili.”
Three years ago, they added all sorts of new tasty dishes including three different salads, a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, and roast beef dip. But they found people were mostly coming for the Coneys. And the average customer was a guy in his 40s or older.
Marvin Alberg, who’s been supporting James Coney Island for 45 years, says, “I eat here about three times a week now that I’m retired. In fact I eat here more than I do at my house.”
And while the restaurant folks appreciate that, their sales have been down the last 5 years. So they’re hoping a hipper name will also bring in the younger crowd.
“I think that’s a good idea,” says Dan Dubose, who eats at JCI at least once a week, “I’ve heard lotsa people say they really enjoy the hamburgers, but I come here for the dogs!”
“Customers will tell me don’t change,” says Straughan, “and I say if I don’t change I might not be able to keep the doors open.” So by next year all 21 James Coney Islands will become JCI Grills. Hey– if that’s what it takes to keep the Coneys and chili cheese fries flowin’, we say, go for it!