Arby’s tall cowboy hat with the saucy fold in the middle is as recognizable as McDonald’s twin arches, Wendy’s girl with pigtails, and KFC’s bearded Colonel Sanders. This is not surprising considering that Arby’s is the second-largest quick-service sandwich restaurant chain in the United States.
Despite its popularity, many of its diners probably do not know anything about the company beyond its well-known Arby’s menu. So, here are three fun facts about the company you should know:
Roast Beef Amidst Hamburgers
In 1964, the fast-food industry was dominated by hamburger-centric fast-food restaurant chains like McDonald’s. Leroy and Forrest Raffel, who were brothers united by blood ties and business skills, realized that they have a great entrepreneurial opportunity in their hands – and thus the concept for Arby’s roast beef sandwiches was born.
The first Arby’s restaurant with the now-recognizable logo opened in Boardman, Ohio on 23 July 1964 with a simple menu – roast beef sandwiches in various styles, potato chips, and soft drinks. And the rest is still history in the making as the restaurant chain, which still capitalizes on its roast beef sandwiches, continues to change its menu to appeal to its target market.
On the Arby’s menu, diners can choose from more food items including brisket, corned beef, Angus steak, bacon, ham, chicken, and turkey sandwiches, as well as wraps, salads, and fried sides. Its slogan, after all, is “We have the meats” so it makes sense that its wide array of meat-based sandwiches is popular among the fast-food enthusiasts. Choices include Arby-Q, Beef ‘n Cheddar, Jamocha Shakes, and curly fries as well as Arby’s Sauce and Horsey Sauce.
Unlike most of its strongest competitors, Arby’s was supposed to be more upscale that your regular hamburger joint. Its founders decided on fancier design elements and menu items but were soon convinced to drop the concept during the franchise planning process. It was an excellent decision considering that Arby’s now has restaurants in other countries, namely, Canada, Qatar, and Turkey.
Many Firsts in the Industry
Arby’s has racked up many firsts in the industry, thus, making it a pioneer in many ways. The Sandy Springs, Georgia-based company was the first fast-food chain to introduce low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sodium options on its menu – the so-called Lite version. Its Lite Menu was launched in 1991, a time when being health-conscious in your fast-food choices was not exactly an in thing to be, with its less than 300 calories sandwiches and salads.
Of all the food items on its menu, the Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich is among the most popular items. During its October 2013 launch, the smoked brisket sandwich with smoked Gouda, onion rings, and barbecue sauce has boosted same-store sales by over 12 percent. This makes the Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich Arby’s most successful new product so far.
Aside from the healthier food options, Arby’s was also the first fast-food chain that implemented a no-smoking ban within its premises in all locations. The initiative was launched in 1994 and has remained in place ever since.
Wendy’s Is An Owner, Too
In the fast-food industry, acquisitions and mergers among competitors are just as common as competitive strategies. Arby’s has not been immune to mergers, which resulted in its current corporate status.
In 2008, Triarc bought Wendy’s; Triarc is Arby’s parent company. The new company changed its name to Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc.
In 2011, Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc. sold off 81.5 percent of Arby’s shares to Roark Capital Group and then changed its name again to Wendy’s Company. The remaining percentage of ownership remained under Arby’s own umbrella.
In effect, Wendy’s owns 18.5 percent of Arby’s – a company being a partial owner of its competitor, which is common despite popular conception about competitors staying strictly as competitors.
Arby’s has also experienced the adverse impact of the 2008 global financial crisis as well as the fierce competition in the restaurant industry. In recent years, its identity crisis has worsened with several ad agencies failing to boost its brand in the market, as partly evidenced by slumping sales.
Many industry analysts assert that its issues stem from its efforts to appeal to a broader population, especially younger customers since these are the industry’s core customers, while staying true to the founder’s vision of offering a truly unique Arby’s menu. Fortunately, Rob Lynch, the company’s brand president, appears to be turning things around with a new marketing plan. Diners can look forward to better things, perhaps even fun food, from the international fast-food company with a logo that looks likes Pharrell Williams’ hat.