West Bend, WI – As the new Panera on Paradise Drive opens on Thursday, September 21, 2023, neighbors are reflecting on some of the other restaurants that have come and gone over the years. Randy’s Drive-In Restaurant, 1307 S. Main St., in West Bend, WI, was a popular hangout from the late 1960s through 1983.
Neighbors remember the restaurant’s red roof, barn theme and, of course, the chicken. In 1972 a box sold for $1.35, a bucket was $4.19 and a barrel of Little Red Hen Chicken was priced at $5.69. Other popular menu items were the Big Max burger for 55 cents and the Dandy burger for 59 cents.
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“Big Max stood for maximum value,” said Carol Santini, daughter of restaurant owner Ralph Roberts.
Santini remembered the advertising for the burger had a picture of a cartoon character with his mouth wide open biting into the Big Max. The pitch line underneath read “Maximum: Double deck eating pleasure.”
“There was also a salad bar and a build-your-own burger bar, which may have been the first of its kind in any restaurant in the area,” she said.
Roberts started his restaurant chain in the early 1960s with a place called Robby’s.
“Dad was a meat delivery driver for Swift & Company and delivered to a McDonald’s in South Dakota,” said Santini. “When he saw the quantity of meat being ordered by McDonald’s he saw the potential in opening a local business.”
The first Robby’s was in Stevens Point; after that Roberts added six similar chains in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including outlets in Fond du Lac and in Wisconsin Rapids.
Next, Roberts opened Kristy’s restaurants, named after his oldest daughter, Christine. There were three Kristy’s, including one in Beaver Dam and another in Sheboygan.
In 1968, Randy’s Drive-In opened in West Bend. Santini said it was her father’s final venture, however, to this day she can’t figure out the origin of the Randy’s name.
“My oldest brother Sheldon remembers a family discussion about picking a name, but there wasn’t a Randy in the family,” she said.
In addition to the Randy’s restaurant in West Bend there was one in Jamestown, N.D. and another in Red Wing, Minn.
“The Red Wing location is still in business today under the ownership of the daughter of Joe and Rhonda Dube who worked with my dad for many years,” said Santini.
Back in the late 1960s, Randy’s was the big high school hangout; it’s where you went when you first got your driver’s license or needed food after a night at the bar.
Susie Krueger remembered how she and her sisters schemed to get their parents to take them to Randy’s. “We had a jingle for Randy Burgers that we would sing after church on Sunday mornings to try and entice them to take us to Randy’s,” she said.
Memories of Randy’s took Kay Chalifoux back to her childhood in the 1970s when she was recovering from a bad car accident and spent three months at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“Eating hospital food was getting old, but as my condition improved my mom surprised me with a three-piece chicken dinner from Randy’s,” she said. “What a feast and that little packet of honey they always gave you for the roll included with the chicken, fast food never tasted so good.”
At the West Bend High Schools, people were always talking about Randy’s.
Ben Kraemer said his friend Bill Jaeger worked at Randy’s and was closing one night.
“You were supposed to throw all the food out but some of friends went in to see Jaeger and they were all eating chicken in the back when the manager (Roger Stolt) came in to help close up.
“All the guys scrambled up into the crawl space above the ceiling and hid while the manager came and worked with Bill. They were sitting up in the ceiling of Randy’s for about an hour,” he said.
Randy’s was in West Bend about 10 years before the golden arches came to town.
Mary Husar Martin said she talked about Randy’s with her son and got a kick out of how desperate he sounded when he said: “McDonald’s wasn’t around when you were in high school? What did you do?”
Some of the neighboring businesses to Randy’s included Sonic Car Wash, Loomans & Hicken, Speed’s Appliance and TV and Gulf Service Station. Up the block were a couple of other fast food venues, including Dairy Queen and A&W.
A fire in the early 1980s eventually led to the demise of Randy’s.
A couple added notes:
Carol Santini, whose father opened Randy’s in West Bend, WI: I got feedback from my family regarding the dates Randy’s was in business. To the best of our recollection Randy’s opened around 1968 as a drive in. Seating was eventually added to the business, and it was open until a fire led to its closing in the late 70’s, early 80’s.
My guess is 1980 but no one remembers for sure. At some time after the fire, Taco Bell began leasing the property until it was purchased by them in 2008.
– “The Flasch sisters had a jingle for Randy Burgers that we would sing to our parents after church on Sunday mornings to try and entice them to take us to Randy’s. Yes, Randy’s was before McDonalds and DQ and my friend Ellie Grasse use to work there as a teen. We loved the hamburger bar; you could get all the pickles you want! Susie Krueger (Flasch)
– “I remember that they had some of the best chicken ever. For graduation my dad asked me where I wanted to go to eat, just him and me. I told him I wanted to go to Randy’s where I ate a whole eight- piece bucket of chicken by myself.” Scott Sickler
– “I haven’t thought about Randy’s since about 1973 but I remember that long after it was closed, whenever we were trying to decide on a place to eat, Dad would suggest Randys, undeterred by that fact that they’d been out of business for years. It didn’t help that a restaurant named Randall’s, (a regional chain similar to Culver’s but now closed due to bankruptcy) opened in several locations and which my dad loved.” Mike Paul
– “Burger, chicken, good food and looked like a fast food place with a huge American flag.” Kevin O’Meara
– “In June of 1970, I was in a car accident and hospitalized at St Joseph’s for three months. Eating hospital food for two-and-a-half months was getting old. As my condition improved my mom surprised me with a three- piece chicken dinner from Randy’s. What a feast! Fast food never tasted so good! My friends and I always went there. I remember the little packet of honey they always gave you for the roll included with the chicken. To this day, whenever I have chicken I always put honey on the buns. Hence the term Honey Buns. I doubt it came from Randy’s.” Kay Chalifoux
– “I’ll hunt up and email a Randy’s radio commercial that WBKV carried when I worked there part time. I copied many commercials on the hunch that they’d be interesting to listen to years later. The Randy’s commercial has a WBKV host who used to imitate Wolfman Jack. I can picture him but don’t remember his name.” Jed Dolnick
– “It was a big treat to go get a bucket of chicken you didn’t make at home.” Mary Husar Martin.