You may remember the fast food chain, Rax, from the 80s & 90s. It may surprise you to learn that this restaurant was actually around in the mid 60s, but it took fifteen years and three name changes to finally land on Rax. Not only did Rax have an identity crisis about its name, but the powers that be couldn’t seem to decide on what they wanted to serve.
Originally known for their roast beef sandwiches, Rax diversified their menu in the early 80s, offering baked potatoes, salads, pizza, a taco bar, and “Chinese-style food” (whatever that means). The restaurant hit its stride in the mid-eighties, with over 500 locations in the US, Guatemala, and Canada.
Rax’s success was short-lived, however. Several key marketing decisions led to the downfall of this fast food chain. First, they rebranded in 1990, going as far as remodeling their locations to have polished wood and glass solariums.
The goal was to become the “champagne of fast food.” This ultimately cost them their working class base of customers. The company switched gears and started working with Deutsch, Inc. on a new advertising campaign. Unfortunately, this campaign would be the beginning of the end.
Before we get into the disastrous advertising strategy, let’s talk about the new slogan that went along with the rebrand. “You can eat here.” Yup. That’s it. Some believe it was an attempt at dry humor or a caricature of advertising and slogans altogether. Others think they were trying to do something similar to the popular “Got Milk” campaign that started right around the same time. Either way, it was a big swing and a miss.
Now let’s get to the spokesperson who put the final nail in the Rax coffin: Mr. D.
Mr. D, or Mr. Delicious, was a confusing, depressing, sardonic black and white cartoon who was supposed to appeal to… well, it’s hard to say. The monologues in these commercials go from sad to puzzling to downright shocking. Mr. D has been described as “a low-key briefcase-carrying middle-aged man in an unhappy marriage, who in addition to promoting Rax restaurants, discussed his mid-life crisis, his time in therapy (so he could, in his own words, “keep his hostility all locked up”), his odd affection for romance novels, and other off-beat topics.”
Rax filed for bankruptcy in 1994, just one year after the failed Mr. D advertising campaign launched. Granted, this restaurant clearly had other contributing factors to it’s decline, but there’s no denying Mr. Delicious played his part in the downfall. Surprisingly, you can still find Rax restaurants today. All 5 locations are in Ohio, where the restaurant was founded.