The restaurant, which has over 1200 units worldwide, is a division of Yum! Brands, Inc. The company purchased it from Yorkshire Global Restaurants, which originally acquired it from Fleet Boston Bank after its having gained control of the restaurants due to bankruptcy. Yum! originally combined many of the franchises' locations with its chain of A&W Restaurants; most Long John Silver's locations that have opened in recent years are co-branded Long John Silver's/A&W restaurants. YUM announced in 2005 that it would expand the multi-brand concept and pair Long John Silver's with KFC, just as they had paired Taco Bell and Pizza Hut along with A&W. The parent corporation of the chain's Canadian franchises, which have no connection with A&W in Canada, is Priszm Brandz.
The first restaurant was opened in 1969 in Lexington, Kentucky. (The original location, on Southland Drive just off Nicholasville Road, was previously a seafood restaurant named the Cape Codder, which accounts for the Cape Cod style of LJS’s early chain restaurants.) Until its bankruptcy in 1998, Long John Silver's was a privately owned corporation. The chain began as a division of Jerrico, Inc., which also operated Jerry's Restaurants, a chain of family restaurants which also began in Lexington, and was very similar to Big Boy restaurants. Jerry's was located in the Midwest and South. When the company was sold in 1989, the Long John Silver's concept had far outgrown the Jerry's chain. Most of Jerry's 46 remaining locations were converted to Denny's by the new owners, with a handful staying under the original name, usually because there was already an existing Denny's nearby. Only a dozen or so, now called Jerry's J-Boy Restaurants, are still open in Kentucky and southern Indiana. LJS stores were largely unaffected by this move. (Many original LJS franchisees were also operators of Jerry's locations).
Beginning in the late 1970s, a lone franchisee operated four stores in the mid-southwestern area of Ontario. Lone stores were located in Kitchener, Cambridge, Guelph and Stratford. Their menus were broader than American stores of today as they included a small selection of salads as meals, some including boiled shrimp. The menu also included seafoods not offered today, such as clams, oysters, scallops, and "Peg Legs" (which were parts of chicken wings but with a "pirate type" name). The stores also offered a limited selected of beer and wine. The design (Cape Cod style) of the stores was similar to American stores of that time period. By the late 1980s there was also a location in London, Ontario, but by the early 1990s some locations began to close and by the mid 1990s only a lone store in Waterloo was operating, which closed shortly thereafter.
In 2006 a store was opened by Yum! Brands in Woodbridge, Ontario, a northern suburb of Toronto, and a joint store with KFC, which only offered a partial LJS menu, was opened in Pickering Town Centre Mall, in Pickering, an eastern suburb of Toronto. These locations were closed within a year and two years, respectively, due to poor sales.
In March 2006, LJS began offering buttered lobster bites, and in the stores signs state "made with real langostino lobster." Many people felt that this was misleading because langostino is not a conventional type of lobster; however the Food and Drug Administration has stated that langostino can be named and marketed as lobster.