Where’s the Beef? Arby’s!

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By Betty Hoover DiRisio, LCHS Board Member & Volunteer

Where’s the Beef? Arby’s!

By Betty Hoover DiRisio

In 1888, Israel Raffel immigrated to Pittsburgh, PA, from Russia and opened a grocery store. One of his sons, Jacob, would later enter the restaurant and tavern business. Around 1931, Jacob moved to New Castle, PA, where he combined his experience in the restaurant/bar business with that of a hotel. He purchased the Leslie Hotel that once graced the corner of Mercer and E. Washington Streets. Jacob had a vision for his two sons that grew up in an apartment at the Leslie and who held jobs at various times as bell boys, bus boys and elevator boys.

Their father would educate Leroy and Forrest in different but complementary areas to form a dynamic duo in the restaurant business world.


Jacob sent his son Forrest B. to hotel restaurant management school at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) and sent Leroy B. to the Wharton School of Finance and the University of Pennsylvania. After college, the boys formed “Raffel Brothers Inc.”, a restaurant equipment business in Youngstown, Ohio, that became quite successful.

In the early 1960’s they found their customers were threatened by the growing fast-food craze. Weighing their options they decided to join the trend. Knowing that roast beef was an American favorite, they created a test kitchen to develop the best roast beef sandwich. They ran the risk at the time that the public would not pay $.69 for a quality roast-beef sandwich compared to McDonald’s $.15 hamburger.


After a year in product development, the brothers were ready to open their restaurant. They had chosen a rustic chuck-wagon theme with an oversized cowboy hat. In arriving at a name they played with the initials of their company…R B… and “Arby’s” was born. Their first Arby’s Restaurant opened near the intersection of Market Street and Route 224 in Boardman, Ohio, on July 23, 1964. In 1965, the first franchise required a capital investment of $25,000. Today a franchise agreement begins between $399K-900K.

(first published on our Facebook page January 15, 2015 and titled “Where’s the Beef?” – lightly edited for clarity of locations)


PHOTO (below) shows founders Leroy on the left and Forrest Raffel on the right.

Leroy on the left and Forrest Raffel, the founders of arbys roast beef sandwich
Leroy and Forrest Raffel, founders of Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich
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