Winter 2004

Frank Talk

From being stolen off tables to a multimillion dollar business, Richard Frank presents the story of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and how it came to be.

Vintage Lawry's Seasoned Salt and Pepper on a table at Lawry's The Prime Rib Vintage Lawry's Seasoned Salt and Pepper on a table at Lawry's The Prime Rib

JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY knows Lawry’s Seasoned Salt—you’ve seen it on the tables in our restaurants and in the supermarket. It’s the single largest-selling formulated seasoning in the country, and maybe the world, so it is likely you’ve used it at home, along with other products made by Lawry’s Foods, Inc., such as bottled mari­nades and salad dressings, other seasonings and gravy/sauce mixes.

Lawry’s Seasoned Salt was “born” in 1938, the same year my father and uncle opened the original Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills. My dad was a real stickler for detail. He wanted every nuance of the meals served at Lawry’s to be absolutely perfect. Determined that his guests should have a great seasoning to enhance the beef they were served (prime rib can’t be seasoned until after it is carved). he decided to create one himself.

I well remember the day (I was 15 at the time my dad arrived home laden with containers of spices, herbs, and other ingredients and took over our family kitchen for his experiments. Months passed while he mixed and tasted and my mother. sister and I sampled the results.

My dad arrived home laden with containers of spices, herbs and other ingredients for his experiments.

When he finally came up with the formula that met his standards, we were delighted to discover that the blend he created not only sea­soned prime rib perfectly, but also heightened the flavors of most other foods in a way other seasonings didn’t. (In the 1970s, when we conducted taste tests of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, time and again it beat out every other seasoning on the market.) My dad had come up with a truly unique product.

The seasoning was put into a third glass shaker next to the salt and pepper on the tables at Lawry’s The Prime Rib. Servers were instructed to use it on the salads they tossed at tableside and to tell guests that it tasted awfully good on prime rib, too. The new seasoning was an instant hit, but a rather costly one; guests liked it so much they swiped it off the tables to take home.

Because of its popularity, it was decided that it would be bottled and sold in the restaurant. My dad and uncle also wanted to see if the seasoning would sell in grocery stores. Frank Ralphs, the buyer for Ralphs Grocery Co., tasted it when he dined at Lawry’s and placed an order for 10 cases for his family’s stores. Voila!

The new seasoning was an instant hit. Guests swiped it off the tables to take home.

A company was formed (separate from Lawry’s The Prime Rib) to manufacture the product. Ten mem­bers of the Frank and Van de Kamp families, including my father and his Lawry’s The Prime Rib partner, my uncle Walter Van de Kamp, invested $1000 each to capitalize the new venture.

A small space was leased in a factory in downtown L.A., and the seasoning went into production. After trying on and discard­ing a number of names, they decided to call it Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.

Although my dad was gratified by the reception Lawry’s Seasoned Salt received from guests of Lawry’s The Prime Rib, he never thought there was much business potential in the product.

He was busy running Van de Kamp’s Bakery and our restaurants (each of them separate companies owned by the Frank and Van de Kamp families) and had little time to spare for the company that had been created to manufacture Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. It remained small, undercapitalized and lacking in brand recogni­tion for more than a decade.

He never thought there was much business potential in the product.

That little company is today, a thriving, multimillion-dollar business. Its flagship product, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, is one of the world’s most popular seasonings, with sales in America virtually equal in dol­lars to that of ordinary table salt.

From the desk of Richard N. Frank

Lawry's The Prime Rib — Beverly Hills

100 N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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