Route 66/Hadla Ice Confectionery – Revesby, NSW

Image courtesy Bradley Torr

Let’s go back to the early 1990s, when someone had a bright idea: ‘How about a series of 50s-style Americana-filled burger restaurants…in Sydney!’ If that sounds stupid, that’s because it is. Hungry Jacks had been trying for years to evoke thatHappy Days flavour, but it just wasn’t washing with the Whopper-eating public. HJ has quietly phased out the Americana over the last ten years, but it’s not uncommon to walk in and find pictures of Elvis and Marilyn adorning the walls, a jukebox in the corner and fries so stale they could only be from 1958. The mastermind behind Route 66 had clearly decided that HJ wasn’t going far enough, and launched the above restaurant at Revesby around 1994. It wasn’t some Mickey Mouse venture, either – there were TV ads imploring hungry viewers to ‘get their kicks’. Within the impressively chromed exterior, girls in miniskirts served up grilled burgers, fries and shakes to patrons amid 50s tunes and checkered floors, while outside the owners hoped to recreate the burger joint atmosphere by providing plenty of parking and a drive-thru service. By all accounts the burgers weren’t bad, but one of the many mistakes the owners made was setting up shop across the road from an infinitely more accessible McDonald’s. Route 66 sits along Canterbury Road, with customers forced to enter and exit via the busy thoroughfare. The customers didn’t take long to work out that it was easier to get into the McDonald’s, and by 2000 the Route 66 dream was over. There were a few Route 66 locations beside this one, but I’m not sure whether they were all part of the same franchise or not. Prestons featured a notorious Route 66 for many years, where hoons really did congregate en masse, much to residents’ discontent.

After Route 66 bit the dust, the site played host to a variety of Lebanese restaurants, all forced to wear the chrome. Today, the chrome is as shiny as ever outside Hadla Ice Confectionery. All of the post-Route 66 ventures to inhabit the place tried and failed to disguise the 50s decor (Hadla’s come the closest), but if you didn’t remember what it was, you probably wouldn’t question it. The only real evidence that Route 66 was ever here is the drive-thru…

…which is now closed off, and has been cleverly converted into an outdoorish seating area for Hadla customers. It’s still chromed up to the max, and gives you a clear idea of what Route 66’s drive-thru customers must have endured in the restaurant’s tireless efforts to send you back to 1955 (maybe they should have had an 88mph speed limit for the drive-thru?). Seeing places like this always makes me wonder about the people who would have worked there – young girls and guys paying their way through uni or getting some extra cash to save up for a car while in high school. I wonder if they look back on their days at Route 66 fondly, or whether those few months or years have been wiped from the resume. I wonder what the owners are doing now, how they must have felt when the writing was on the wall, and if they ever drive past and think about the happy days. The quest to inspire nostalgia in others has become nostalgia in itself.

If you have any stories to share about this place, I’d be fascinated to hear them.

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5 responses

  1. Hello, I’m James and I remember route 66 fondly…..they made the best burgers and fries and the shakes ( which used oak flavoured milk to make them) were awesome….it was a genius idea then and its still a genius idea now….I’ve even gone out of my way to see if route 66 still exist….they knew how to capture the nostalgia of the past and gave us all ( even for a short period of time) their interpretation of what great quality take away/fast food from the past would look/taste like…I mean even the packaging and meal boxes looked legit….it was good food served quickly……..not take away….unfortunately in this world quantity is fair more important than quality….. I’ll always think fondly of route 66 and always will and i will eagerly wait the return of it to come back or another nostalgic burger joint…

  2. I frequented Route 66 at Prestons in the mid-90s for their great burgers… Car hoons quickly became tired of the 50s decor and left the area and shortly after the coupons for $1 burgers were released..presumably to get customers back in the door.
    The young crew of staff eventually became complacent and sometimes so rude that even a $1 burger wasnt enticing enough to bring customers back!! Probably poor management. Such a shame too, i really did like their burgers although the memory of the exact flavour is long gone.
    A Subway franchise now stands in it’s place… also awkward looking, attempting to hide it’s chrome history lol..

  3. I started work at the Preston store in the mid 90’s while I was in high school, I applied for a job at the new store opening in Narellan, where I worked as a trolley boy in the shopping centre. I started training at the Preston store.

    First shock for me was the exploitation of the workers, which may not be unusual in the hospitality industry but it was a shock for me. On my first day at nock off time I finished up what I was doing washed up, said goodbye and walked out the door. Next day I get a lecture that before I just Bundy off and leave I need to see the shift manager. This was code for when you finish your shift we want 15-20mins of free labour. Being young, needing a job and for the most part enjoying the people I worked with I went along with it.

    The opening of the Narellan store was a mess, the opening was rushed, staff were not trained properly and vital equipment was missing. Cold burgers, long lines, selling out of key ingredients e.g. no pineapple for a Hawaiian burger. Drove the customers away.

    That’s when things started to nose dive, a lot of the managers quit or were fired, the owners were virtually never around which was unusual as they were very hands on.

    The treatment of employees got worse, on a roster 6 hour shift you might come in and get immediately put on a break, if customers came in you’d be put to work, and when it was quiet again put back on your break. For a 6 hour shift you might only work and get paid for 2-3 hours but had to sit in the store in case you were needed.

    I quit… my sister kept working until getting paid was a lottery, eventually many kids were owed up to 2-3 weeks pay at a time.

    \the final nail in the coffin was when staff turned up to work to find a note on the door saying we have closed for good.

    The store sat empty for maybe a couple of years until it was demolished, the Preston store got turned into a Subway.

    For me the experience was a life lesson, I still think back to that time whenever I pass the stores.

  4. I’ve forgotten about the Prestons outlet but I clearly remember their original 1994 diner on Hoxton Park Rd, Liverpool. It was located on the main road leading into Cartwright and all the other public housing suburbs. As a result it tended to attract local hoons as the accounts above described, and this reached its nadir when the joint was written about in the Telegraph in 1995 with the same tone of suburban panic the paper today reserves for drive-by shootings.
    I concur with others that the food was – for what it was – quality and reasonable value for money. The limited menu kept things easy and the shakes were top-notch. They tasted everything Maccas did not taste like, which was manna from Westie heaven. Unfortunately the naff retro set-up and design was, even by mid-90s standards, a trite look that would’ve worked in 1984 not 1994.
    I don’t know who the owner(s) were but on opening day a middle-aged gent and a kid who looked like his early-20s son feverishly worked the counter like their lives and homes depended on it. These two eschewed the staff uniform and instead wore normal white collar business attire.
    It was a shame Route 66 failed but I think one reason for their demise was their expansionary hubris in wanting to open up other joints, like Revesby.

  5. I guess it was a good thing I jumped ship when I did. Holy crap. The man running that place, in my opinion, couldn’t operate a potato gun; much less be the managing director. I should know, he’s my stepfather. Not the easiest guy to live with, so I can’t imagine how his employees were treated. His main goal was to make a clone of Johnny Rocket’s which he worshipped. Needless to say, it wasn’t a formidable opponent. The name was going to be fresh express at first, then Johnny jets, then eventually route 66. Plus I’m sure seeing a 12 year old kid working at the broiler didn’t help it’s image either. Namely me. 95% of the time it was for free due to them being short staffed from employees quitting. Gee I’m sure that had nothing to do with employees not getting paid on time. Perhaps we’ll never know…… oh wait, yes we do know. Lucky for me, I was out of Oz when it all went downhill. And to top it all, the food was fair at best. I always chose McDonald’s and Burger King (Hungry Jack’s) before I chose that place. Kids at school would always joke about that place closing down. Little did they know within a couple years that their comments would be factual. Truth is stranger than fiction. He’s taken a different approach these day recruiting people from India and Thailand to become nurses. From what I hear is not going so well either. Story of his life. Sorry, Mr Pitman. No love from me today, sir

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