Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bob Evans to Enter Restaurant Biz – May 1968

The sign in front of the Amherst, Ohio restaurant
Fifty years ago this month, Bob Evans Farms, Inc. finalized its plans to enter the restaurant business. Here’s the story as it appeared in the business pages of the Lorain Journal on Thursday, May 30, 1968.

Popular Ohio Sausage Maker Plans Restaurant Chain

Plans for the entry of Bob Evans Farms, Inc., into the fast-food restaurant business have now been made final and according to Robert Evans, president, the first unit will be built in Chillicothe, with anticipated opening on Sept. 1. A second unit, planned for opening in Columbus in early 1969, is now in the formative stage.

The Chillicothe operation will be the first fast-food restaurant featuring fresh (Farm Boy) and smoked (Smoky Boy) sausage sandwiches. The two-story building, combining Early American and Midwestern architecture, is designed by Coburn Morgan Business Interiors and is built by Don M. Sussey Co., both of Columbus. The parking area will accommodate approximately 50 cars.

Bob Evans Farm Foods, Inc., is a subsidiary of Bob Evans Farms, Inc., and other officers in addition to Robert Evans are: Robert J. Wood, executive vice president and general manager, and Larry Corbin, operations manager. Advertising for the operation, whose headquarters are at 3776 High St., Columbus, will be handled by Byer & Bowman Advertising Agency, Inc., Columbus. The new company will also manage the restaurant now located on the homestead farm in Rio Grande.

In response to numerous inquiries from interested parties regarding franchising, Evans says: “We are working with consultants, who are now making a survey of the potential franchising aspects of our new venture, and no decisions will be made until the report is completed and studied. Our basic objective in entering the fast-food business is to explained the pork sausage market in general.

“Inasmuch as the Bob Evans Farm Sausage is now one of the leading sellers in its marketing area, it seems a logical step to widen the appeal by making sausage sandwiches readily available to the public at conveniently located fast-food restaurants.

It’s interesting that in its infancy, the Bob Evans restaurant chain saw itself as a fast-food business with the focus on selling sausage sandwiches. Today, it’s hard to think of the after-church brunch favorite as a restaurant selling fast food.

The Farm Boy® mentioned in the article is still on the menu, alongside non-sausage sandwich fare including chicken, ham, pot roast and turkey. But I always order sausage when I visit a Bob Evans Restaurant; just wouldn’t be right not to.

Bob Evans Restaurants has had an outlet on Griswold Road in Elyria since about 1976. The present restaurant at that location is actually a newer version, having replaced the original one sometime in the 1990s.

Here’s the current version of the restaurant as it looked this past weekend. As you can see, the newer building appearance has been simplified from the original, ornate design.

I remember applying for a summer job as a bus boy there either in the summer of '76 or ’77. The person who interviewed me told me that I was going to have to get a haircut if they hired me, and that my hair could not extend below my collar.

Click here to visit the history page on the Bob Evans website.

UPDATE (May 22, 2018)
Longtime contributor Jeremy Reynolds emailed me recently about this post. He wrote,"Was just having dinner at Bob Evans in Amherst when I noticed your blog from earlier this week about the chain. 

"In case you want to add any more info to the post, the Amherst Bob Evans opened up in Sept 1987."

Jeremy even sent me the link to the article in the Amherst News-Times of September 30, 1987 announcing the opening (below).

Thanks, Jeremy!

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