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Rax Roast Beef
Type Private
Founded 1967 in Springfield, Ohio [1]
Founder(s) Jack Roschman [1]
Headquarters Ironton, Ohio[2]
Number of locations 10[3]
Area served Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia,
Industry Fast Food
Products Roast beef sandwiches, salad bar, shakes, baked potatoes, and other fast food products
Owner(s) Rich Donohue
Parent From Rax to Rich's[2]
Website www.raxroastbeef.com

Rax Roast Beef is a small regional U.S. fast food restaurant chain specializing in roast beef sandwiches, currently 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 due to poor marketing decisions and internal corporate problems. Its closest rival in terms of menu offerings is Arby's.

Contents

History and operations

Rax was originally known as JAX Roast Beef, founded by Jack Roschman in 1967, in Springfield, Ohio.[1] 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.[4] By then, Rax had grown to over 221 restaurants in 25 states.[5]

An older Rax still in operation in Lancaster, Ohio. Originally a franchise, it is now a company owned store.

At its peak in the 1980s, the Rax chain had grown to 504 locations in 38 states along with two restaurants in Guatemala.[6] 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 many other entrees. Also, Rax was the first fast food chain to add whipped cream to any dessert item upon request. Rax began to transform its restaurants from basic restaurant architecture into motifs of wood and solariums desiring to become 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.[5] Compounding the decline was a management buyout of the company in 1991 and numerous changes that occurred on the company board.[7] The downfall eventually bottomed out when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 1992 and the company scaled back many of its stores to its core markets, particularly Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.[8]

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.[9] Heartland planned to convert all Rax restaurants into Hardee's by 1997.[10] 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.[11]

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.[11] 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.[12] Since then, the Rax brand has been owned by Cassady & Associates.[13]

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).[14]

Current status

A newer Rax in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

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 10 locations.[3]

In December 2007, Rich Donohue, a franchise owner with restaurants in Ironton, OH and Ashland, KY, 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.[2] The company currently owns the two Lancaster, OH locations an 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 Columbus.[15]

Slogans

"All the right stuff." [16]
"Fast food with style." [17]
"Nobody Stax Up To Rax"
"Gotta get back to Rax." [4]
"I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?" [18]

References

  1. ^ a b c Rax hunts for a president; Ross says move is 'logical' next step for growth | Nation's Restaurant News | Find Articles at BNET by D.M. Levine, Nation's Restaurant News, January 14, 1985, retrieved March 6, 2009
  2. ^ a b c Rax Roast Beef * I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?, From Rax to Rich's Inc. contact page
  3. ^ a b Location Rax Restaurant Locations, raxroastbeef.com, retrieved September 25, 2009
  4. ^ a b The Evolution of Great Taste, History of Rax on rax-online.com (archive)
  5. ^ a b Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Ageby John A. Jakle & Keith A. Suclle, p. 173 (1999)
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ "Rax tries to rally" by Charles Bernstien, Restaurants & Institutions, February 1992, retrieved October 23, 2007
  8. ^ "Struggling Rax Restaurants files for Chap. 11 protection" by Bill Carlino, Nation's Restaurant News, December 7, 1992, retrieved September 1, 2006
  9. ^ "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 November 23, 2007
  10. ^ "Heartland Food Systems to shed Rax Restaurants" by Bill Carlino, Nation's Restaurant News, March 6, 1995, retrieved September 1, 2006
  11. ^ a b "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 September 1, 2006
  12. ^ "Rax Name Appears Likely To Survive Transformation" by Debbie Gebolys, The Columbus Dispatch, November 6, 1996, retrieved September 1, 2006
  13. ^ "Cassady seeks investors for Dalt's, Rax expansion" by Brian R. Ball, Business First of Columbus, August 22, 1997, retrieved January 26, 2007
  14. ^ Kids Pages, Kids Pages on rax-online.com
  15. ^ "Rax: Road Trip and Roast Beef Review" by Walker Evans, Columbus Underground, March 1, 2009, retrieved March 6, 2009
  16. ^ "Rax Restaurants plans more new items despite diversity of its extensive menu" by Joe Edwards, Nation's Restaurant News, December 3, 1984, retrieved November 23, 2007
  17. ^ "Step aside King Kong: Rax has brought a new ape to town" by Marilyn Alva, Nation's Restaurant News, February 1, 1988, retrieved November 23, 2007
  18. ^ Rax Roast Beef * I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?, Official Rax website

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