Arby’s co-founder Leroy Raffel dies at 96

Arby's co-founder Leroy Raffel has passed away at age 96.
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Leroy Raffel, who co-founded the Arby’s fast food chain with his brother in 1964, has passed away at the age of 96.

The restaurant announced Raffel’s death on its Facebook page Thursday, saying “We remain honored to carry on the legacy that Leroy and his brother Forrest created. May his memory be a blessing.”

The Raffel brothers (who cheekily named their restaurant after their initials – RB) opened their first store in Boardman, Ohio. It had just 10 seats and 20 parking spots and stood out from the many hamburger chains by focusing instead on roast beef sandwiches.

“On the day we opened, the McDonald’s hamburger was 15 cents and our sandwich was 69 cents. So you had to be a little more affluent to buy our sandwich,” he told Ohio TV station WFMJ in 2014.

Within 12 years, the brothers sold the chain, which by then had 400 locations, to Royal Crown Cola. The company has since gone through many owners and had its share of ups and downs. Wendy’s, at one point, owned the brand, selling it to Roark Capital in 2011. Roark is the majority owner of Inspire Brands, which oversees Arby’s today, along with Sonic, Jimmy John’s, Dunkin and more.

By 2016, though, Arby’s was on fire, having outperformed the industry for 13 straight quarters. The company has also expanded its menu far beyond the core roast beef sandwich, which has been a driving strategy for more than six years.

“Our marketing is always talking about a new product when we launch a campaign,” Arby’s CEO Paul Brown told Fortune in 2017. “Every month we come up with a new item in the restaurant.”

Leroy’s brother, Forrest Raffel, died in 2008 at the age of 86.

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