On 36th Street in Oklahoma City I saw this old Arby's sign. It is a much bigger ten-gallon hat version of today's Arby sign. I am sure there are other old Arby's signs around the country, but it made me wonder about the history of Arby's. I also wonder why they did not replace this sign with a newer version unless it is because this is also on Historic Route 66.
Arby's was founded in 1964, but the concept for a roast beef sandwich franchise was rooted many years earlier. Forrest Raffel, and his younger brother Leroy, bought an uncle's restaurant equipment business in the 1950s. The small company rapidly grew to become one of the country's leading foodservice consulting firms. Raffel Brothers, Inc. designed and installed hundreds of foodservice facilities including the flight kitchens at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, interiors of six Ohio Turnpike restaurants, and foodservice facilities for the Hospitality Inn motel chain of Standard Oil of Ohio.
The Raffel brothers quickly sensed the potential of fast food and decided to develop a franchise operation based on something other than hamburgers. A late-night excursion to a small Boston sandwich shop one rainy Halloween was the inspiration for the Raffels, who joined a damp, but determined huddle of patrons to await the main attraction – a 69-cent roast beef sandwich.
The idea was born. The only kink in the chain's orderly development came with choosing a name. The partners wanted to use the name " Big Tex", but were unsuccessful in negotiating with the Akron businessman who was already using the name. So, they came up with Arby's, which stands for R.B., the initials of Raffel Brothers, although I guess customers might think the initials stand for roast beef."
The first Arby's restaurant opened in Boardman, Ohio, on July 23, 1964, serving only roast beef sandwiches, potato chips, and a beverage. This was the only Arby's restaurant for a year as the brothers refined the operation. One year later, the first Arby's licensee opened a restaurant in Akron, Ohio. Today you can see thousands of Arby's restaurants across the country.
This new Arby's sign is so high in the air my little camera could barely see it!