I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?
|Founded||1967 in Springfield, Ohio|
|Headquarters||Ironton, Ohio, U.S.|
Number of locations
|Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia|
|Products||Roast beef sandwiches, salad bar, shakes, baked potatoes, fries, soft drinks, wraps, sandwiches, chicken|
|Parent||From Rax to Rich's|
Rax Roast Beef is a regional U.S. fast food restaurant chain specializing in roast beef sandwiches. It is based in Ironton, Ohio. Once a big player in the fast food segment, Rax has extensively scaled down their operations since their peak in the 1980s.
History and operations
Rax was originally known as JAX Roast Beef, founded by Jack Roschman in 1967, in Springfield, Ohio. In 1969, Roschman sold the chain to General Foods, who then changed the name of the restaurants to RIX Roast Beef. General Foods ran the chain until 1978, when most of the restaurants closed down. The remaining 10 units were franchised units owned by the Restaurant Administration Corporation (RAC), headed by J. Patrick Ross, a franchisee of multiple restaurant chains including Wendy's, Ponderosa Steak House, and Long John Silver's. RAC purchased the remainder of RIX from General Foods, and returned the JAX name to the restaurants. RAC eventually decided to focus on the roast beef business, and began franchising the chain. The JAX restaurants were renamed Rax to be more suitable for trademarking and franchising, with the first Rax branded franchise restaurant opening in Columbus, Ohio. RAC was renamed Rax Systems Inc., then again to Rax Restaurants Inc. in 1982. By then, Rax had grown to over 221 restaurants in 25 states.
At its peak in the 1980s, the Rax chain had grown to 504 locations in 38 states along with two restaurants in Guatemala, and two Restaurants in Canada. The Canadian locations were in Lethbridge and Red Deer, Alberta. During this time, Rax began diversifying its core roast beef sales by adding baked potatoes and a dinner bar with pasta, Chinese-style food, an "Endless Salad Bar", and a dessert bar. Rax began to transform its restaurants from basic restaurant architecture into designs containing wood elements and solariums, with the intention of becoming the "champagne of fast food". This transformation drove away its core working class customers, blurred their core business, and caused profits to plunge for Rax as others took advantage of Rax's techniques and improved on them, as Wendy's did. Compounding the decline was a management buyout of the company in 1991 and numerous changes that occurred on the company board. The company attempted to convert under performing outlets by forming joint ventures with Miami Subs and Red Burrito as they scaled back many of its stand alone locations to its core markets, particularly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. A new advertising campaign was formulated with Deutsch Inc. to create Mr. Delicious in order to attract adult customers. The new advertising campaign backfired causing the exit of the marketing team. This along with compounding loan payments forced the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 1992.
In 1994, Rax Restaurants Inc. merged with North Carolina-based Franchise Enterprises Inc, renaming the company Heartland Food Systems Inc., and becoming a Hardee's franchisee. Heartland planned to convert all Rax restaurants into Hardee's by 1997. However, by 1996, the difficulty of converting Rax restaurants to Hardee's placed too much pressure on Heartland, and they were forced to once again file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As part of a turnaround plan, the company sold the Hardee's units it owned that were not originally Rax stores and changed the company's name back to Rax Restaurants Inc.
The company was planning a revival for the Rax concept, including a new, simpler menu, a new store prototype, and a new logo and color scheme. However, in November 1996, Wendy's International made an offer to purchase 37 Rax restaurants, intending to convert most of them to Tim Hortons. This caused a change in strategy, and a buyer was sought for the remaining company-owned restaurants. In July 1997, the Rax brand was purchased by Cassady & Associates.
As other fast food places added something for the kids, Rax also created their mascot, Uncle Alligator, who was dominant in all kid's meals and toys, always involving some sport or activity (e.g. skateboarding).
Most Rax locations that are still open today are franchisee-owned, with the right to use the Rax name as long as the store is in operation. Many locations have closed in the last decade, and the chain has been reduced in size to 14 locations.
In December 2007, Rich Donohue, a franchise owner with restaurants in Ironton, Ohio and Ashland, Kentucky, purchased the Rax trademark. The new company, From Rax to Rich's Inc., purchased the name to bypass licensing costs, and plan on opening more restaurants in Ohio and Kentucky. The company currently owns the two Lancaster, Ohio locations in addition to the one in Ironton. The company's short-term goal is to open restaurants around and between Ironton and Lancaster, with possible long-term expansion into Heath, Colfax, Dumontville, and Columbus.
- "All the right stuff."
- "Fast food with style."
- "Gotta get back to Rax."
- "I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?"
- Rax hunts for a president; Ross says move is 'logical' next step for growth | Nation's Restaurant News | by D.M. Levine, Nation's Restaurant News, January 14, 1985, retrieved July 6, 2014
- Rax Roast Beef * I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?, From Rax to Rich's Inc. contact page
- "Rax locations, official site". Retrieved 29 December 2010.
- The Evolution of Great Taste, History of Rax on rax-online.com (archive)
- Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age by John A. Jakle & Keith A. Suclle, p. 173 (1999)
- Franchising in Guatemala by Raguel De Urrutia, U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service and U.S. Department of State, March 29, 2000, retrieved November 21, 2007
- Editorial: Rax Bids Downtown Farewell After 28 Years The Herald Bulletin, April 27, 2011, retrieved February 27, 2012
- "Rax Tries to Rally" by Charles Bernstien, Restaurants & Institutions, February 1992, retrieved July 6, 2014
- Miami Subs Planning For Growth Chain Converting Older Buildings, Signs Rax Deal by Tracy Kolody, Sun Sentinel, December 16, 1991, retrieved February 26, 2012
- Rax, Red Burrito Ink Deal to Expand Mexican Fast Feeder by Bill Carlino, Nation's Restaurant News, May 25, 1992, retrieved July 6, 2014
- THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING -- ADDENDA; New Campaigns by Stuart Elliot, New York Times, August 24, 1992, retrieved February 25, 2012
- Mr. Delicious Promotional Video retrieved February 25, 2012
- "Struggling Rax Restaurants files for Chap. 11 protection" by Bill Carlino, Nation's Restaurant News, December 7, 1992, retrieved July 6, 2014
- "Alliance with Rax boosts Hardee's to 4,112 units - Rax Restaurants Inc., Hardee's Food Systems Inc" by Theresa Howard, Nation's Restaurant News, May 2, 1994, retrieved July 6, 2014
- "Heartland Food Systems to shed Rax Restaurants" by Bill Carlino, Nation's Restaurant News, March 6, 1995, retrieved July 6, 2014
- "Heartland Food returns to Rax roots - Heartland Food Systems Inc. repositions Rax Restaurants concept" by Suzanne Kapner, Nation's Restaurant News, February 12, 1996, retrieved July 6, 2014
- "Rax Name Appears Likely To Survive Transformation" by Debbie Gebolys, The Columbus Dispatch, November 6, 1996, retrieved September 1, 2006
- "Cassady seeks investors for Dalt's, Rax expansion" by Brian R. Ball, Business First of Columbus, August 22, 1997, retrieved January 26, 2007
- Kids Pages, Kids Pages on rax-online.com
- "Rax: Road Trip and Roast Beef Review" by Walker Evans, Columbus Underground, March 1, 2009, retrieved March 6, 2009
- "Rax Restaurants plans more new items despite diversity of its extensive menu" by Joe Edwards, Nation's Restaurant News, December 3, 1984, retrieved July 6, 2014
- "Step aside King Kong: Rax has brought a new ape to town" by Marilyn Alva, Nation's Restaurant News, February 1, 1988, retrieved July 6, 2014
- Rax Roast Beef * I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?, Official Rax website
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rax (restaurant).|
- Rax Roast Beef official website
- Columbus Restaurant History - Chains Page List of former Rax locations in Columbus, Ohio.