Eat'n Park

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Eat'n Park
Private
Industry Restaurants
Founded June 6, 1949; 68 years ago (1949-06-06) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Founders Larry Hatch
William D. Peters
Headquarters Homestead, Pennsylvania, United States
Number of locations
69 stores (2017)
Area served
Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia
Key people
Jeff Broadhurst (President),
Mercy Senchur (Senior VP of Operations)
Number of employees
8,000+ (2011)
Parent Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, Inc.
Website www.eatnpark.com
Footnotes / references
[1][2][3][4]
A black and gold Smiley Cookie appears at a rally for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.

Eat'n Park is a restaurant chain based in Homestead, Pennsylvania, with 69 locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The chain is known for its Smiley Cookies and has adopted the motto, "the place for smiles".

History[edit]

Eat'n Park logo while the chain was affiliated with Big Boy Restaurants.

In the late 1940s Larry Hatch and Bill Peters were supervisors at Isaly's Restaurants in Pittsburgh. On a trip to Cincinnati, Hatch was impressed seeing the Frisch's Big Boy Drive In operation. He and Peters contacted Big Boy founder Bob Wian, reaching a 25-year agreement to operate Big Boy Restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, which would be called Eat'n Park.[5]

Eat'n Park launched on June 5, 1949, when Hatch and Peters opened a 13-stall drive-in restaurant in the South Hills neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The official opening time for the restaurant on Saw Mill Run Boulevard was 2 p.m. Advertised as "Pittsburgh's First Modern Eat-in-your-Car Food Service" the original location was serviced by 10 carhops.[6] Four months later, a second unit opened in Pittsburgh, by 1956: 11 units, 1960: 27 units, 1965: 30 units, and by 1973: 40 Eat'n Park locations.[7] After leaving Big Boy, the chain entered Ohio and West Virginia, and eventually grew to over 75 restaurants.[1] In 2017, there are 69 Eat'n Park restaurants operating.[4]

In 1974 Eat'n Park allowed their 25-year Big Boy franchise agreement to expire. This was publicly attributed to discontinuation of car hop service—which ended in 1971—but it was largely motivated by the end of $1 per year licensing fee Eat'n Park enjoyed.[8] As a result the Big Boy hamburger was renamed the Superburger. The non-renewal of the Big Boy agreement eventually allowed Eat'n Park to expand into areas licensed to other Big Boy franchises. Eat'n Park expanded into Northeast Ohio including Greater Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown, and into West Virginia: first Morgantown, followed by Clarksburg and Wheeling.

The company launched its signature Smiley Cookie in 1986 to coincide with adding a bakery to its locations. The Smiley Cookie came from Warner's Bakery, a small bakery in Titusville, Pennsylvania.[9] The Smiley Cookie would become so popular that it would eventually be added to its logo and would spawn the "Frownie" brownie from rival Kings Family Restaurants, which would be controversially discontinued in 2015 after Kings was sold to a private equity firm.[10] Eat'n Park filed several lawsuits against companies outside the restaurants' operating area to enforce its trademark[11] on the Smiley Cookie.[12][13][14]

In 2011, Eat'n Park was awarded the Achievement of Excellence award from the American Culinary Federation.[15]

Despite accepting debit & credit card transactions, Eat'n Park is unusual in the restaurant business by having an ATM at each location. The ATMs were originally owned by SkyBank, and later Huntington Bank after the latter bought SkyBank in 2007. The ATMs are now operated by a third-party company.

Since 2013, Eat'n Park has been a sponsor of the YouTube series Pittsburgh Dad.

Former locations[edit]

An Eat'n Park marquee.

While Eat'n Park currently serves western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia, the chain used to serve the Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York, Pennsylvania markets from the mid-1990s to 2010. At one time operating five restaurants in the Harrisburg market alone, by 2010 only one remained in Harrisburg, and one each in New Cumberland, Lancaster, and York. In March 2010, the New Cumberland and Lancaster locations were closed and sold, and by October 1, 2010 Eat'n Park closed their last two area restaurants—the York and Harrisburg locations—due to low sales.[16]

Other concepts[edit]

Hello Bistro sign at the restaurant on Pittsburgh's South Side

Eat'n Park has been expanding its offerings outside its traditional diners, operating upscale restaurants as well as more casual places.

To date,[when?] its most successful concept is Hello Bistro, a fast casual chain focused on Millennials offering gourmet burgers and salads while keeping its parent company ties to a minimum by offering prepackaged Smiley Cookies and the same brand of ranch dressing as the main Eat'n Park chain, but otherwise making no references to Eat'n Park. With four locations, Eat'n Park plans to expand the Hello Bistro concept throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and potentially into new markets.[17]

Smoking[edit]

Eat'n Park banned smoking throughout the chain on May 30, 2007, sixteen months before a statewide smoking ban was enacted in Pennsylvania.

Christmas commercial[edit]

A Christmas tradition in the Pittsburgh region is the annual airing of an animated Eat'n Park commercial that shows a Christmas star (named Sparkle) struggling to reach the top of a Christmas tree until the tree bends over to help the star up.[18] Released in 1982 in support of a charity at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, the commercial became so popular that Eat'n Park has re-aired the ad every year since, starting in late November. Eat'n Park now sells merchandise around the holiday season based around the ad. It is believed to be the longest-running Christmas commercial in the United States, longer than national television ads by Folgers, Hershey's Kisses, and M&M's, as well as a regional commercial by the Pennsylvania Lottery.[19][20] Sparkle, the Eat'n Park Star was trademarked by Eat'n Park in 1990 but was abandoned two years later.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Eat'n Park. "Eat'n Park - About Us". Eat'n Park. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  2. ^ Eat'n Park. "Eat'n Park - About Us - Contact Us". Eat'n Park. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  3. ^ Eat'n Park. "Eat 'n Park - About Us - Eat'n Park Hospitality Group". Eat'n Park. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  4. ^ a b "Eat'n Park Restaurant Locator". Eat'n Park. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Obituary: William D. Peters / President of Eat'n Park restaurants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 20, 2000. Retrieved 28 September 2013. open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ "Bring Your Family to Eat'n Park (advertisement)". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh. June 4, 1949. p. 3. Retrieved December 12, 2013. open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ Kunzmann, Jackie (July 5, 1989). "Hungry motorists can't help but Eat'n Park: A few food facts, figures". New Castle News. p. 17. Retrieved February 6, 2017 – via newspaperarchive.com. 
  8. ^ Kapner, Suzanne (September 18, 1995). "After 46 years, Eat'n Park still revs sales, appetites". Nation's Restaurant News: 4. 
  9. ^ http://blog.eatnpark.com/2011/01/eatn-park-restaurants-and-history-of.html
  10. ^ http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2015/04/23/kings-family-restaurants-sold-to-san-diego-private-equity-firm/
  11. ^ "USPTO Trademark Status & Document Retrieval: Smiley Face Cookie". tsdr.uspto.gov. February 5, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  12. ^ Cato, Jason (January 25, 2010). "Eat'n Park takes on Texas company over its Smiley Face cookie". Tribune-Review. Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  13. ^ Ove, Torsten (May 21, 2015). "Eat'n Park sues Chicago cookie-maker over Smiley trademark". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  14. ^ Brandolph, Adam (May 20, 2015). "No smile here: Eat'n Park sues Chicago cookie maker". Tribune-Review. Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved February 5, 2017. 
  15. ^ Lee, Stacy (20 July 2011). "Eat'n Park to receive national recognition". McKeesport Daily News. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  16. ^ Gleiter, Sue (September 29, 2010). "Eat'n Park to close its last Harrisburg-area restaurant". PennLive.com. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 
  17. ^ Eat'n Park's spinoffs part of strategy to stay relevant beyond diner Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (November 9, 2015)
  18. ^ Eat 'N Park (August 14, 2006), Eat 'N Park Christmas Star Commercial, retrieved February 6, 2017 
  19. ^ Crawley, Dave (November 29, 2012). "Eat ‘N Park Christmas Commercial Celebrating 30 Years". CBS Pittsburgh (KDKA-TV). Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  20. ^ Lindeman, Teresa F. (November 14, 2012). "Eat'n Park's animated Christmas Star ad celebrates 30 years". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Trademark Status & Document Retrieval: Sparkle, The Eat'n Park Star". tsdr.uspto.gov. Retrieved February 6, 2017. 

External links[edit]