YEARS AGO at the old Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills, across La Cienega Blvd. from our current location, the first stop for many of our guests was the cloakroom where they would leave their coats with Penny Jones, our fondly remembered coat check lady.
Often they would see a little boy perched on a stool next to her, intently watching the hustle and bustle of the restaurant. They couldn’t have known that he was there because he had grown bored waiting for his mother to finish her coffee after a family meal.
Being antsy, like only a five-year-old could be, he had left his family at the table and headed for the cloakroom to see the “show.” I was that little boy and The Prime Rib was almost as familiar to me as our dining room at home.
The pictures reinforce my sense of belonging to a nearly hundred-year-old family enterprise.
Early on, I had a sense that I was part of something very special. As I grew up, I would look at photographs of generations of Franks and Van de Kamps and the businesses they built together.
I particularly remember the photo of my grandparents, Lawrence and Henrietta, along with my great uncle, Theodore Van de Kamp, and my great aunt, Marion Van de Kamp, in the original storefront of Van de Kamp’s Bakery. Even today, the pictures reinforce my sense of belonging to a nearly hundred-year-old family enterprise.
generations of Franks and Van de Kamps and the businesses they built together
It wasn’t just through photo albums that I came to know I was part of a long tradition that happily blurred the line between family and business. Over generations, it has been common to see both Franks and Van de Kamps among the co-workers at the company offices and in the restaurants. In fact, I believe we have as many family members active in the business today as we ever have.
Our family’s involvement didn’t stop at the end of the workday though. My mother, my sisters, and I all vividly recall being “guinea pigs” around the dinner table.
My father would bring home the latest test products from Lawry’s Foods, usually some foil packet with a code name and cooking instructions for our mom to follow. Dad would encourage us to tell him what we really thought. (The original Lawry’s Spaghetti Sauce mix is still my favorite.)
I carried on this family “tradition” by having them and their friends taste test menu items
When my children were young, I carried on this family “tradition” by having them and their friends taste test menu items for the Tam O’Shanter’s children’s menu. And to this day, when we’re all together for a meal and someone says, “Please pass the salt,” it means a bottle of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt will be going around the table. In fact, it’s the only “salt” on the table.
My first summer job was as a busboy at Tonio’s, our popular Italian restaurant in Newport Beach, California. Besides learning such necessary skills as how to negotiate a graceful exit from the table after spilling an iced tea, I discovered firsthand the demands and rewards of the hospitality business.
As a restaurant concept, I knew Lawry’s The Prime Rib was a unique one that really made sense.
When I was in graduate school in Boston I began to think seriously about my future. I hadn’t considered entering the family business to be my only option, even though as that skinny five-year-old in Penny’s cloakroom I had often said, “I’m going to run Lawry’s Foods” to those who asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up.
My father came to visit, and although he didn’t pressure me to join the company, he did say that if I were interested, there would be a place for me to make my own contribution to Lawry’s. His offer intrigued me.
As a restaurant concept, I knew Lawry’s The Prime Rib was a unique one that really made sense. Most importantly, I realized I wanted to work with my dad. I admired and respected him more than anyone.
So, thirty years ago, I became one of the third generations of Franks and Van de Kamps to work at Lawry’s. I’ve served as President of Lawry’s Restaurants Inc. since 1992 and also as its CEO for the last ten years. Recently I was elected Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. I’ve been lucky to enjoy a very rewarding and fulfilling career.
there would be a place for me to make my own contribution to Lawry’s
This spring, Dad turned over responsibility for writing the Frank Talk column to me. I have always enjoyed what he has written and proudly look forward to continuing this tradition he began with the first publication of A La Cart in 1982.
But if you expect to see dramatic changes you might be a bit disappointed, since Dad and I share many of the same values and often think alike. He has always done a terrific job in fulfilling his wish that Frank Talk be both informative and entertaining. I hope to do the same in the future.
From the desk of Richard R. Frank