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Why Arby’s is So Much Better Than You Think

For one reason or another, Arby’s has always been given a pretty bad rep. And who knows why. The food at Arby’s has always been pretty good, yet they are consistently overlooked and set aside while consumers opt for flashy big menu items from some of America’s other greatest fast-food restaurants.

Time and time again, people are drawn to big-name restaurants like Taco Bell and Burger King to try whatever new item they have on the menu. While Arby’s stands in the background, overlooked, despite their outstanding food. But, something that you might not have noticed is that, while you were distracted by Taco Bell’s Cantina Crispy Melt taco, Arby’s was adding all sorts of outstanding options to their menu. You just missed it because you were too busy looking the other way. So, how has Arby’s upped their game? Let’s take a look.

What is Arby’s?

an arby's meal

In case you have been living under a rock your entire life, let’s take a look at what Arby’s is. When it comes to fast food in America, Arby’s is one of the big names. If you were to ask your average American to name 5 fast-food chains, there is a very high chance that Arby’s would be one of the names they put forward. This is because it is one of the giants in the industry, even if it has been tossed aside for some newer, exciting fast-food restaurants. Arby’s is special because they specialize in sandwiches. But what makes them special is also what sometimes makes people look the other way. Sandwiches aren’t exciting, in fact, most people would consider them to be boring, and this is a big part of what has led people to Chipotle, Taco Bell, and so on. But the food at Arby’s is next level, and that is what has made them so successful. Their food is fresh and delicious, and if you give them the time of day, you will realize that it is just as exciting as a crispy taco or burrito bowl. So, where does Arby’s come from?

The History of Arby’s

Just like many of America’s greatest fast-food restaurants, Arby’s has a rich history dating all the way back to 1964. It was founded by Leroy and Forrest Raffel, who saw a gap in the market for a fast-food chain that sold something other than burgers. They saw that gap in the market and the opportunity that it offered, and they seized it, and so Arby’s was born. Since the chain’s first store was opened in 1964, Arby’s has skyrocketed in terms of growth. The company now has over 3,300 restaurants open across North America, South America, and other countries including Turkey, South Korea, and Egypt. This massive growth has led to Arby’s being known as America’s second most successful sandwich chain, with Subway leading at the front. Arby’s is most famous for their classic roast-beef sandwiches, but their menu is broad and there is something for everyone on there. So no matter what style of sandwich you are fancying, Arby’s will have something delicious for you to eat on offer.

What Food Does Arby’s Sell?

In one word, sandwiches. As we have said, Arby’s is a sandwich shop that was founded when the Raffel brothers noticed a gap in the market for something other than burgers. There are lots of fast-food restaurants that specialize in beef burgers, and there always has been, but sandwich stores have been in a much shorter supply. In one way, the fact that they solely sell sandwiches has benefitted Arby’s. It has given them a unique selling point, and this alone has driven customers their way. But, this could also be considered to be a drawback. If you fancy a sandwich, then this is great for Arby’s.

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However, unfortunately, people tend to fancy a sandwich a lot less than they fancy a burger. So, Arby’s will always lose customers to other fast-food restaurants, simply because they just sell sandwiches. That being said, the sandwiches at Arby’s are remarkable, and they are perfect if you fancy something classic. From roast beef to brisket, and even chicken sliders, there is a sandwich for everyone at Arby’s. They sometimes even offer seasonal dishes that feature chicken strips, buffalo wings, and lots more. But, this menu is seasonal, and most of the time, sandwiches are the main thing that Arby’s has to offer.

Is the Food at Arby’s Any Good?

arby's exterior

By all accounts, yes, the food at Arby’s is good. Arby’s knows what they do well, and they capitalize on this. That is why their sandwiches are such a delight to eat. Their menu might not be as vast as the sandwich options at Subway, but it was never going to be, as Subway offers to design your own sandwiches, so the options are endless. But, at Arby’s, there is one thing front and center on the menu, and that is roast beef. Roast beef features heavily across the majority of the company’s sandwiches, and it is easy to see why, because the roast beef at Arby’s is top tier. Every sandwich is a little different, with some featuring cheese, others featuring jalapeños, and so on, to ensure that they are all special. 

So, their sandwiches might not be as exciting as the menu options offered by some other companies, but they sure are delicious. So, yes, the food at Arby’s is good, and it always has been. But, it hasn’t been the quality of food at Arby’s that has had people looking the other way, so let’s take a look at what has caused this. 

Why Do People Dislike Arby’s?

arby's exterior

By all accounts, the food at Arby’s is good. So, you might be wondering why they have garnered such a bad reputation. The thing is, Arby’s doesn’t actually have a bad reputation. At no point has the company done anything scandalous to give them a bad reputation, and they are not controversial, unlike other companies like Chick-fil-A. Yet, there is still an atmosphere surrounding Arby’s, and a lot of people don’t seem to know why. One thing that has led to some controversy for Arby’s is their beef. A lot of people have debated this beef, and whether, or not, it is actually real, or if their ‘beef’ is created by taking the cheaper cuts of beef, and mixing them together to create their ‘roast beef’.

This rumor circulated for a long time, and it grew so intense that the company themselves had to come out and essentially say “it is real”. Arby’s have proven that the roast beef that they sell in their beef sandwiches is real beef, yet a lot of people still question this, and that is part of what creates this atmosphere. Something else that could be causing this atmosphere is the fact that Arby’s is actually pretty healthy. When compared to other big fast-food names, like McDonald’s and KFC, Arby’s has a pretty healthy menu, and while this is a good thing, it could also be argued that it is a bad thing. While a lot of people complain about the unhealthiness of other fast-food restaurants, this is ultimately something that they look for, every time they eat out at a fast-food chain. So, the healthiness of the food at Arby’s is also partly what has caused this atmosphere. 

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The Punchline of Many Jokes

But the reputation that Arby’s has isn’t necessarily drawn from the company itself. In fact, the excellent food that Arby’s sells, and the great customer service that the company offers have nothing to do with the atmosphere surrounding Arby’s. Instead, this has come about because, over the years, Arby’s has found itself being the punchline of many jokes. This isn’t a recent thing, in fact, Arby’s has been a bit of a joke for a long time. 

Arby’s has been used as a punchline for so long that it has become difficult to differentiate the company’s exceptional services from this. From the moment when Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, began to poke fun at the company with parody slogans such as “Arby’s: The meal that’s a dare for your colon”, the reputation of the company began to go downhill. Stewart made these jokes in good fun, but he is highly influential, and so these jokes stuck. Likewise, when the company’s name featured in an episode of the Simpsons, with one of the Mackleberry twins claiming “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s”, it took another hit. All of these digs were made in good faith, but they have had a big impact on Arby’s. When you combine this with the rumors of ‘fake meat’, it is easy to see how the company could take a hit through word of mouth alone. 

How Arby’s Has Changed Through the Years

arby's french fries

Throughout the years, Arby’s has changed a lot, and one of the clearest changes throughout this time is the size of this company. When you look at the fast-food giant that is Arby’s today, it is difficult to comprehend that this chain was once a small, independent store. When Arby’s first opened, they were trailblazers. Just like Subway, Arby’s was one of the few sandwich stores to succeed in the fast-food industry, and so they were new and exciting. But, the excitement surrounding Arby’s has died down significantly in the 50+ years since the company first opened its doors, and so the company has had to change with it. 

While their core menu has remained the same, and their heavy focus on roast beef has gone nowhere, Arby’s has had to change a lot. In particular, the company had to learn and adjust to the constant jokes made about them by comedians and in cartoons and films. There were 2 ways that they could have responded to this, they could have been defensive, or they could’ve taken it on the chin. Thankfully, Arby’s chose the latter. If anything, becoming the punchline of so many jokes ended up being a good thing for Arby’s. While these jokes would have lost the company some customers, it also sent a lot of people running to get their hands on one of Arby’s famous sandwiches. So, every time a joke is made about the food at Arby’s, the company gets an influx of customers. Customers who are eager to see if the food is as bad as the jokes said, and surprised to see that it is actually incredible. 

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Striking the Perfect Balance

As we have established, for many people, the menu at Arby’s will not be that exciting. You only need to take a look at it to see that it isn’t that innovative, and this is part of the reason Arby’s is overlooked. While Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s are constantly adding new and invigorating dishes to their menu, Arby’s doesn’t really change that much. Of course, they have a seasonal menu, but even this menu is rather bland, and it mainly consists of items you would expect to see on the main menu. But, despite this, Arby’s is a fan favorite. It has become the butt of so many jokes because people love Arby’s, in the same way that you poke fun at the people in your life that you love. The simple fact is that Arby’s has struck a perfect balance, and they have done so by not changing much.

Since it opened, Arby’s has changed a lot, but the majority of these changes have been limited to the size of the company. Outside this, Arby’s hasn’t changed that much, and their menu is still very similar to what it was like when they first opened. For a lot of restaurants, this would be a downfall. You only need to take a look at early merchandising for McDonald’s, and compare it to the merchandising of today, to see how hard that company worked to shed their past. But, Arby’s owns their past. They know they haven’t changed much, and they have made this their thing. Arby’s knows that their key customer base is All-American, and they cater to that. So, they don’t have to go chasing after teenagers and other young people in order to get customers. They know that their customers are already there and that they aren’t going anywhere.

How Arby’s Became Fantastic

crowded arby's counter

So, you might be wondering how exactly did Arby’s become one of the most popular fast-food restaurants in the country? After all, we started this with the pretty bold statement that Arby’s upped their game while you were looking the other way, so let’s back that statement up.There is one simple way that Arby’s became remarkable, and that is practice. While other fast-food chains have spent the years since they were first created evolving, and changing so much that they are almost unrecognizable to the stores in their early days, Arby’s did not. Instead, as we have said, Arby’s found their brand early on, and they have stuck to that. So throughout the 50+ years since they were first founded, Arby’s has been working hard and practicing until their original company model was perfect. 

This is how Arby’s was able to become so great without making a song and dance of it. In the background, they worked tirelessly to perfect the company design that was set up by the Raffel brothers. So, while you were distracted by the fancy Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell, and the Baconator at Wendy’s, Arby’s was busy perfecting their famous roast beef sandwiches until they became so good that no other company could compete. That being said, Arby’s has tried its hand at adding new and exciting options to its menu. Most notable was their venison sandwich. This sandwich was not only trailblazing for Arby’s, but for the fast-food industry as a whole because it was one of the first times that game meat was sold in a fast food store. This was pretty much a one-time thing, and Arby’s hasn’t done much to throw themselves into the limelight since. But, this was a clear statement from Arby’s to remind their loyal customers why they go there, and to remind the detractors of Arby’s that they are actually pretty great. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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