I had lunch with my wife today at a Cajun-themed chain called Razoo’s. As we were waiting for our food and looking at their collection of signs and other clutter on the walls I started to wonder when this particular phenomenon started. For anyone not familiar with these places, there’s a common approach among many chain joints to decorate with old signs and debris from a bygone era. The first place I remember doing this was Bennigan’s (in the 80s in NJ), but I’m sure there could be others that did it first. I remember Houlihan’s around the same time but I think they were a direct copy. Any idea?
The Ground Round did it back in the 70s.
I’m familiar with the name. I’m pretty sure we had some in my area, but I don’t recall ever eating there. It reminds of another place, Steak & Ale. They may have also done it earlier?
Sounds a lot like Cracker Barrel to me.
Yes, the same idea as Cracker Barrel. We didn’t have any of them close to us when I was younger. Wikipedia says they were founded in 1969. I’ll have to look at some other places to see when they started.
Ground Round was also started in 1969, and Bennigan’s came later in 1976.
I was also wrong about Houlihan’s. They started in 1972 so maybe Bennigan’s copied them.
No idea of the origin of the style but I’ve called them “crap on the wall restaurants” ever since that episode of The Simpsons.
Steak & Ale and Bennigan’s were owned by the same company…at least they were in the early '90s.
Only from the standpoint of “crap on the wall”. Bennigans (and Houlihans, and Ground Round, and Applebees, etc., etc.) are “bar and grill” restaurants. Cracker Barrel has a very different menu (focus on breakfast items, does not serve alcohol, etc.); it’s really much closer to Denny’s or IHOP.
The first time I saw this was at a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado in the mid-1970s, though I’m having trouble recalling the name. It was not a Bennigan’s or any of the other names mentioned so far.
TGIFriday’s is another chain that does it.
T.G.I. Friday’s was founded in 1965. We have a new leader.
The founding dates of these restaurants doesn’t mean anything, unless you can show that they had the crap on the walls from the very start.
I’m sorry I don’t have the link, but I am quite certain I read an article once about an antique dealer who was engaged to do the ‘stuff on the wall’ decorations for Cracker Barrel, and it was noted as being the first. Apparently the person did this for many years; travelling around acquiring junk…er… antiques and warehousing them. Then for any newly planned Cracker Barrel they they would make a ‘dry run’ setup and design at the warehouse, then transfer it wall by wall to the actual location.
That’s true. I was assuming they started out with that business model.
Cecil did a column on where Cracker Barrel gets their crap. The column says that Cracker Barrel had stuff on the walls from the beginning in 1969.
I should have known there would be precedent right here in the archives. Thanks! 1969 is the oldest verified date of wall crap so far.
Dunno if it counts, but pubs in the UK have had wall crap for ever. Old ships’ wheels, farming implements, flagons, and stuff. I imagine these days it’s all bought from warehouses just like the roadsigns and things are.
Speaking of Cracker Barrel, their founder died today. RIP tasty breakfast guy.
S&A Restaurant Corp. went bankrupt in 2008. The restaurants that were still company-owned (most Bennigan’s and all Steak & Ale’s) were closed at that time; there are still a few Bennigan’s franchises that are clinging to life.