Good, old fashioned home cooking with a variety of choices have made Chuck-A-Rama a local favorite in Utah and on Wednesday, Sept. 7, the the Utah-based restaurant chain will celebrate 50 years.
The restaurant “took its name from the chuck wagon of the ‘Old West’ and the Boy Scout’s Scout-o-Rama which was dear to the founders’ hearts (and) was an instant hit,” according to a Chuck-A-Rama news release. The restaurant started as a cafeteria-style buffet but slowly moved to food islands and added more entrees and desserts.
Duane Moss, Chief Executive Officer for Chuck-A-Rama, said having a celebration for the 50 year anniversary is very important.
“Much like a golden anniversary for a couple, it is a huge achievement for a restaurant to be in business for 50 years,” Moss said.
When his father, Don Moss, started the business with partner Wayne Chamberlin, they tried to get a bank loan to start a second location. The bank turned them down, telling them issuing loans for a restaurant was as risky as giving out a loan for a Corvette or a motorcycle. Don Moss and Chamberlin never used a bank for another loan.
“They learned to earn everything for themselves. It’s a tough business and most only have a longevity for 5 years, so I would say it’s a pretty good achievement. They were janitors, dishwashers and meat carvers,” Duane Moss said of his father and other owners.
Alva Green came on later as a partner. The Moss family bought out the rest of the owners many years ago and Duane Moss took over as CEO about 20 years ago.
Since Duane Moss’ father grew up in Idaho, he wanted to add the Idaho stores to the mix, but the family has always been proud to keep Chuck-A-Rama a Utah-based business with the same recipes from grandma and great-grandma.
“People just love the food. The homemade gravy, the fresh meat, the fresh recipes. They know they are getting a good product,” Duane Moss said.
Each restaurant makes the food fresh at each location every day.
“We don’t have a satellite store that makes the carrot salad and takes it out to the restaurants, each store does their own,” Duane Moss said. He thinks that’s one of the reasons the Ogden store is so successful. “We have a team that knows how to prepare the food with perfection (in Ogden). They know that freshness is a priority and our customers know it too.”
The current Ogden location, 3655 South Washington Blvd., is not the first Chuck-A-Rama in Ogden.
“Our first Ogden restaurant, it failed,” Duane Moss said.
At the time, the restaurant chain was newer and the partner affiliated with that chain struggled more to keep things the way there were supposed to be, Duane Moss said.
That first location on about 35th and Washington shut down almost 30 years ago, he said. But, they didn’t give up on the Ogden market and knew they could be successful here, so they re-opened about 17 years ago and it is one of their most thriving locations.
One of their secrets to success has been timing.
“There are prime times at lunch and dinner when restaurants are always busy. We have figured out a way to get our customers in on some other times and that has worked really well for us. To have a full restaurant at 3:30 p.m. is really unheard of,” Duane Moss said.
But it works because of the way they time early bird specials, lunch and what they serve. They also work to get close to the customers and treat employees well so they want to stick around. Some of the employees at the Ogden store have been there since the store opened, Duane Moss said.
“We have many repeat customers, some that come in every day, some that even come in more than once a day,” he said.
On Sept. 7 only, patrons can spin for prizes and discounts, enter a drawing to win a red Radio Flyer Wagon, a Cuisinart Pure Indulgence ice cream maker or a Camp Chef Dutch Oven at each location. And, one lucky person company-wide will win the grand prize drawing: a two-night stay at Stein Erickson Lodge Resort in Deer Valley, Utah, according to the release. Most of the prizes will be at each of the 12 locations. Ten locations are in Utah and two in Idaho. To find the one nearest you, visit Chuck-A-Rama’s website.