All 12 Chuck-A-Rama locations are celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary on Sept. 7. Patrons can spin for prizes and discounts, and enter prize drawings for 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 a grand prize of a two-night stay at Stein Eriksen Lodge Resort in Deer Valley, Utah.
Alva Green and his sons-in-law Donald E. Moss and Wayne Chamberlain opened their first restaurant at 744 E. 400 South, serving lunch for $1 and dinner for $1.50. The name, which endures its share of jokes, came from Don Moss, who took the word “Chuck,” from the “chuckwagon” used for cooking on Old West cattle drives.
“Dad combined it with something that was dear to his heart — the Scout-O-Rama,” said Duane Moss, who is Don’t son and now the company CEO.
Today the name defines a plentiful serve-yourself buffet where customers can enjoy a hearty econo-meal. It even caters to Utah’s food quirks with Jell-O, fry sauce, Dutch oven cooking and deep-fried scones.
Some items are old family recipes. For instance, the bread pudding came from the mother of company president Mike Johanson. (He started working at CAR as a dishwasher in 1969.)
Chuck-A-Rama is the only sit-down restaurant in the U.S. that serves both Coke and Pepsi, said Rene Schuurman. He wanted to give fans of both beverages a choice.
And despite the stereotype of people who heap their plates too high, there are customers who say you can get a fresh healthy meal that’s inexpensive. First they hit the salad bar for spinach, spring greens and a wide variety of chopped fresh veggies and fruit. (Corporate chef Renee Schuurman refers to this as the “yuppie bar.”) Then they add baked chicken, and a low-sugar dessert topped by fresh berries. Of course, you have to shut your eyes as you walk past the onion rings, French fries, mac ‘n’ cheese, sweet rolls, brownies, pies and cakes.
During the restaurant’s early years, the owners were turned down for a bank loan to build a new location in Orem. They were told restaurants were too risky. So the owners self-funded that expansion and have been doing so ever since.
The early restaurants served the food in one long cafeteria line. About 28 years ago, the chow-line concept was revamped to what Duane Moss calls a “scatter system,” with food stations spread around the room.
“That really turbo-charged our company, and we doubled our sales easily,” Moss said.
They also began making fresh rolls and desserts from scratch daily at each location. The company also prefers to locally source as many ingredients as possible, including locally milled flour from Lehi Roller Mills and Big J Milling Company.
They also use high-tech equipment such as a “flash chiller” that can quickly chill or heat food. The cooking and chilling temperatures can be programmed for each food, taking out the guesswork.
Chuck-A-Rama employs 700 people, and the original 4th South restaurant has a core of people who have worked there for 40 years.
“Our slogan is, ‘the choice is yours,’ and we are grateful that the community has continued to choose Chuck-A-Rama for 50 incredible years,” said Johanson. “We intend to keep pleasing them with home-style cooking for many years to come.”
As I mentioned, I’m giving away a $50 gift certificate to Chuck-A-Rama. Please leave a comment on this blog post about Chuck-A-Rama. For instance, what’s your favorite menu item? What menu item do you wish they would carry? Do you have a favorite memory of Chuck-A-Rama? If you won the gift certificate, who would you take with you? DEADLINE TO ENTER IS FRIDAY NIGHT, 11:59 p.m.!
On Saturday Sept. 3, I’ll be posting winning the name, so please check back! You’ll need to email me your snail mail address so I can put the card in the mail.
For more information about restaurant locations, menus, etc., visit www.chuck-a-rama.com. For more details on the 50th birthday celebration, visit https://www.chuck-a-rama.com/anniversary.php.