One hundred years ago in Chicago, the magazine you are reading was born.
It was 1919. Teddy Roosevelt had died in his sleep. There was a civil war in Russia. Allied powers were meeting in Paris to map out peace terms following the first World War. Oh, and a wave of molasses swept through Boston after a storage tank exploded, killing 21.
Perhaps most importantly for the restaurant industry, however, the 18th amendment prohibiting “intoxicating liquors” in the U.S. was ratified, though Prohibition officially began the following year.
A young entrepreneur named C.A. “Pat” Patterson had an idea. He decided to launch a magazine for the U.S. restaurant industry, which at the time included an estimated 40,000 establishments. He did this against the advice of almost everyone. In that era, restaurants were considered “fly-by-night” operators who didn’t pay their bills, according to Patterson’s obituary.
But Prohibition forced restaurant operators to shift their focus from booze to food. The American Restaurant Magazine, as it was called when it launched in October 1919, was positioned to support that shift, and it was an immediate success.
Patterson went on to become a key figure in the growth of what is now a $825 billion restaurant industry, including more than 1 million units employing some 15 million people. Patterson, and the magazine, was instrumental in launching the National Restaurant Association, which is also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
In fact, though Ray Kroc took credit for discovering the McDonald’s brothers’ tiny drive-in in San Bernardino, Calif., they were actually profiled in a cover story in RH in July 1952, sparking a flood of interest from others who wanted to copy the Speedee Service System, according to the book “McDonald’s: Behind the Arches,” by John F. Love. Kroc didn’t go visit until 1954, but the rest is history.
There's more to come. Throughout this year, we will be celebrating our long history as a key storyteller for the industry. That will include a spotlight on restaurants and suppliers who have come along for the ride over the decades, so if you have photos or stories to tell, please share.
We want to hear from you.
Look for our #ThrowbackThursday coverage on social media with #RestaurantHospitality100. We will also be profiling restaurants around the country that have been around for 100 years or more in a series about Staying Power. We will look back, but we will also look forward.
Today RH stands as the only B2B devoted specifically to the independent restaurant community and small, emerging chains. The publication proudly stands alongside sister brands Nation’s Restaurant News, Supermarket News and Food Management.
Much has changed since 1919. So we raise a no-longer-prohibited glass of intoxicating liquor to your success. I’m looking forward to the next 100.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout