Rax Roast Beef
I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?
|Founded||1967 in Springfield, Ohio|
|Headquarters||Ironton, Ohio, U.S.|
Number of locations
|Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio|
|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. Their closest rival in terms of menu offerings is Arby's.
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.
In 1981, the chain introduced baked potatoes and salad bars to their menu. By June 1984, the 300th location was opened in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1988, the company decided to reduce the size of their money losing salad and food bars to help reduce expenses and refocus on sandwiches.
At its peak in the 1980s, the Rax chain had grown to 504 locations in 38 states along with two restaurants in Guatemala,[better source needed] 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, pizza and a dinner bar with pasta, Chinese-style food, taco bar, 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).
In 2006, there were 26 locations remaining in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. By February 2015, there were 15 locations in Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio, and West Virginia. The number of locations further declined to 8 by March 2016.
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 shrunk to eight locations, six in Southern Ohio, and one each in Kentucky and Illinois.
In December 2007, Rich Donohue, a franchise owner with a restaurant in Ironton, Ohio, purchased the Rax trademark. The new company, From Rax to Rich's Inc., purchased the name to bypass licensing costs, and had plans to open more restaurants in Ohio and Kentucky. The company currently owns the location in Lancaster, Ohio and the one in Ironton. In 2009, the company's short-term goal was 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?"
In popular culture
Much like the now-defunct chain Hills, Rax has been mentioned on the online series Pittsburgh Dad multiple times. The August 15, 2017, episode has the titular character drive his family "six hours round-trip" to the nearest Rax location (in Lancaster, which is approximately three hours via Interstate 70 from Pittsburgh), not telling his family what their trip is until they arrive. Rax had been previously mentioned by Dad in a previous episode of him watching the Week 15 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals during the 2016 NFL season when he said, "The only reason you drive to Cincinnati, because I heard there's a Rax somewheres [sic] around there, in the general vicinity. Well, I'll find it."
- Levine, D.M. (January 14, 1985). "Rax hunts for a president; Ross says move is 'logical' next step for growth". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Contact". Rax Roast Beef. From Rax to Rich's Inc.
- "Rax locations". Rax Roast Beef. From Rax to Rich's Inc. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
- "The Evolution of Great Taste". Rax Restaurants. Carpediem Management Co. Archived from the original on 2006-01-03.
- Jakle, John A. & Suclle, Keith A. (1999). Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age. JHU Press. p. 173. ISBN 9780801869204.
- Probber, Jonathan (June 19, 1984). "300th Rax opens here: A notch up on scale". Fort Wayne News Sentinel. (Subscription required (. ))
Today was opening day for Fort Wayne-based Rax of Indiana's 22nd restaurant, at 5909 Covington Road. It's the third in this area, and the 300th for the franchisor, Rax Systems of Columbus, Ohio... The first salad bar in a fast service restaurant, according to fast food historians, and baked, topped potatoes, introduced in February 1981. Besides the salad bar (a large, horseshoe-shaped unit) and roast beef, Rax stores sell ham, turkey, fish, barbecued beef and Philadelphia-style beef sandwiches. They also sell potato skins and soup.
- Amatos, Christopher A. (November 23, 1988). "Rax Will Trim Its Salad Bars, Shareholders Told at Meeting". Columbus Dispatch. p. 01F. (Subscription required (. ))
The regional restaurant chain will put more emphasis back on sandwiches and trim its salad bar offerings after discovering that its Lunch Bar and Dinner Bar are failing to bring in new business, President Larry Ritter told shareholders at the company's annual meeting yesterday. Ritter said new surveys show Rax lost some market share during the summer. More importantly, six of eight major chains that offer expanded salad bars also lost share, indicating consumers no longer see extensive salad bars as unique or innovative, Ritter said... Rax was one of the first chains in the country to offer salad bars with hot pasta and Mexican items. Its salad bar accounted for as much as 40 percent of sales in some stores, Ritter said.
- De Urrutia, Raguel (March 29, 2000). "Franchising in Guatemala". U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service and U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 2008-03-07. Retrieved November 21, 2007 – via Government of Canada.
- "Editorial: Rax Bids Downtown Farewell After 28 Years". The Herald Bulletin. April 27, 2011. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
- Bernstien, Charles (February 1992). "Rax Tries to Rally". Restaurants & Institutions. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- Carlino, Bill (May 25, 1992). "Rax, Red Burrito Ink Deal to Expand Mexican Fast Feeder". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- Amatos, Christopher A. (May 14, 1992). "Red Burrito Venture Lets Rax Widen Scope". Columbus Dispatch. p. 01D. (Subscription required (. ))
Rax Restaurants Inc. became a partner yesterday with Carlos Garcia in his Red Burrito Mexican food company, with plans to convert some underperforming Rax locations to the new concept. Rax directors approved the agreement yesterday, said William Underhill, president and chief operating officer of the Dublin-based chain. Rax will provide marketing, purchasing and management support as well as locations. Garcia, who earlier this year opened the first Red Burrito in a converted Rax that he is leasing, will manage the company.
- Kolody, Tracy (December 16, 1991). "Miami Subs Planning For Growth Chain Converting Older Buildings, Signs Rax Deal". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
- Elliot, Stuart (August 24, 1992). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING -- ADDENDA; New Campaigns". New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2012.
- Mr. Delicious Promotional Video. August 14, 2011. Retrieved February 25, 2012 – via YouTube.
- Carlino, Bill (December 7, 1992). "Struggling Rax Restaurants files for Chap. 11 protection". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- Howard, Theresa (May 2, 1994). "Alliance with Rax boosts Hardee's to 4,112 units - Rax Restaurants Inc., Hardee's Food Systems Inc". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- Carlino, Bill (March 6, 1995). "Heartland Food Systems to shed Rax Restaurants". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- Kapner, Suzanne (February 12, 1996). "Heartland Food returns to Rax roots - Heartland Food Systems Inc. repositions Rax Restaurants concept". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- Gebolys, Debbie (November 6, 1996). "Rax Name Appears Likely To Survive Transformation". Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved September 1, 2006.
- Ball, Brian R. (August 22, 1997). "Cassady seeks investors for Dalt's, Rax expansion". Business First of Columbus. Retrieved January 26, 2007.
- "Kids Pages". Rax Restaurants. Carpediem Management Co. Archived from the original on 2005-12-30.
- "Restaurant Locations". Rax Restaurants. Carpediem Management Co. Archived from the original on 2006-05-11.
- "Locations". Rax Roast Beef. From Rax to Rich's Inc. Archived from the original on 2015-02-17.
- "Locations". Rax Roast Beef. From Rax to Rich's Inc. Archived from the original on 2016-03-29.
- Doyle, Abbey (April 15, 2011). "Downtown Rax closing". Anderson Herald Bulletin.
- Bevins, Evan (February 16, 2016). "Former Rax closes: Owner cites loss of revenue, rising costs". Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
- "Can Rax finally make a comeback?". Columbus Business First. March 16, 2009. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Donohue buys Rax trademark". Ironton Tribune. February 14, 2008.
- Evans, Walker (March 1, 2009). "Rax: Road Trip and Roast Beef Review". Columbus Underground. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
- Edwards, Joe (December 3, 1984). "Rax Restaurants plans more new items despite diversity of its extensive menu". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- Alva, Marilyn (February 1, 1988). "Step aside King Kong: Rax has brought a new ape to town". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Rax Roast Beef * I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?". Rax Roast Beef. From Rax to Rich's Inc.
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