Leroy Raffel, Arby’s Co-Founder, Dies at 96

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Leroy Raffel, one of the brothers who co-founded the Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwich restaurant chain in Boardman in 1964, has died at age 96.

Jim Taylor, Arby’s president, announced Raffel’s passing in a statement on the website of Inspire Brands, which owns Arby’s and other brands, including Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin and Jimmy John’s.

“The team and I send our heartfelt condolences to Leroy’s friends, loved ones, and family, including his four children Janet, Jim, Nancy, and Ken,” Taylor said in the statement.

Leroy and Forrest Raffel, before founding Arby’s, designed and equipped restaurants, hotels and institutional kitchens but “saw the handwriting on the wall” for the future of the independent restaurateur, Leroy Raffel told The Business Journal for an August 1989 story.

After considering other options, they used the first letters of “Raffel Brothers” as the basis for their restaurant’s name. They opened their first Arby’s on U.S. Route 224 in Boardman, just west of where the township’s current store is located.

“Even in 1964, that was still the best location for a fast-food restaurant in the Youngstown market,” Leroy Raffel said in 1989.

Taylor credited the brothers with “an innovative approach to quick-service dining.” Arby’s first roast beef sandwiches sold for 69 cents, “served hot, fresh and prepared to order – a higher quality offering versus the burger chains of the time.”

In 1989, the brothers credited the Youngstown area with providing a basis for Arby’s success, particularly the local employees.

“There was no question at the time that the best managers came from the Youngstown area – that we could take young people, train them in Youngstown, move them out to other areas and get very good results,” Leroy Raffel said. “There is a very good work ethic in Youngstown that really helped us in our development.”

Arby’s is making a donation in Leroy’s name to the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, Taylor said.

“Leroy’s legacy will live on with his beloved brand, and we are ever grateful for his vision and commitment to Arby’s,” he said.

Forrest Raffel died in 2008.

Pictured at top: Leroy and Forrest Raffel, July 1964. (Inspire)

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