What Happened to the Red Barn Restaurant?

Ralph DiMatteo History

Red Barn Restaurant

“When the hungries hit, when the hungries hit, hit the Red Barn!”

If you grew up around the Cleveland area, you were no doubt very familiar with the catchy jingle of the Red Barn restaurants that originated in Springfield Ohio by Don Six, Martin Levine and Jim Kirst (which sounds sort of like a law firm).

The popular fast-food chain was extremely aggressive with menu development, such as “The Big Barney," their equivalent to McDonald’s Big Mac. What isn’t really commonly known, or perhaps more accurately said, is that the Big Barney actually preceded the Big Mac into satisfied stomachs by a couple of years. It was also the first chain of its kind to have self-service salad bars.

The Red Barn’s look and feel was also very distinctive and nostalgic. The bright red barn exteriors were complemented by clean, large window front designs and somewhat limited interior seating.

High school date nights, families on the go, quick lunches or just a snack to get you through to dinner, the Red Barn had menu items that met every need. At their peak, they numbered between 300-400 locations in 19 states, parts of Canada and Australia, believe it or not.

Their three mascots, Hamburger Hungry, Big Fish Hungry and Chicken Hungry delighted children and adults alike at community events and grand openings during the peak popularity of the chain.

In the late 1960s, United Servomation bought the restaurant group and then merged with City Investing Company in 1978, which also owned the Motel 6 brand. Sadly, their focus was on construction, real estate and other financial services, and advertising support - which was so critical to the Red Barn's success - was curtailed, and the last of the franchisee’s leases expired in 1988.

Many of the distinctive buildings were repurposed for other commercial uses, included singular restaurant concepts, and some even remained open as “The Farm," continuing to serve customers' favorite menu items.

As you may have imagined, a wave of nostalgia has been gaining momentum since the early 2000s, calling upon creative and deep-pocketed entrepreneurs to bring back the iconic restaurant chain. All you have to do to add your voice and opinion on the matter is to visit any number of groups on Facebook leading the charge. Who knows, maybe, just maybe, yours will be the voice that puts it over the top.

I, for one, humbly offer my services to be the new Hamburger Hungry mascot.



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