I made some great roast beef last weekend, and with the leftovers, I put together my own copycat Beef ’N Cheddars with the help of some store-bought Arby’s sauces. The sandwiches were, of course, delicious, because Arby’s knows how to complement a pile of meat. But while roast beef is the name of the game, it’s not how Arby’s got its name.
What does Arby’s name mean?
Up until now, I had always assumed the origin story I had heard about Arby’s was true. The name “Arby’s,” I’ve been told, was derived from the fast food chain’s namesake product. “Arby’s,” as in “R.B.,” as in “roast beef.” This has always seemed like common knowledge; you’ll see it shared across the internet as a fun fast food fact. But it’s not a fact at all, it turns out.
Am I the last person to find this out? Maybe. Arby’s has actually been trying to dispel this rumor about its name for years now, and in 2022, it’s one that still lives on in my own damn head.
Arby’s does not stand for “roast beef.” It does come from the initials “R.B.,” but those letters stand for “Raffel Brothers.” Leroy and Forrest Raffel are the two siblings who founded the restaurant in 1964 in Ohio. They chose roast beef as the restaurant’s flagship product specifically because it was different from hamburgers, and because they thought people would be happy paying a premium for it. When Arby’s sandwiches debuted, they cost $0.69 versus McDonald’s $0.15, but despite that significant difference in price, people still paid for them, Leroy Raffel told Metro Monthly in a 2014 interview.
The ambiguity of the name means that Arby’s has been addressing the “roast beef” rumor for a long time now. In fact, its Twitter account has been informing people of the Raffel Brothers at least since 2010.
It doesn’t help that Arby’s aired a spot in the early 1980's with a little musical jingle that implied a correlation between the spelling of the name and the phrase, “America’s Roast Beef, Yes Sir!” (It might not be accurate, but it’s cute.) Then, of course, there’s the fact that Arby’s iconic sign is a giant hat emblazoned with the words “Arby’s ROAST BEEF Sandwich IS DELICIOUS.”
I guess it makes sense that I wouldn’t have learned the true origins of the name until 2022. While we all know the names of Colonel Sanders and Ray Kroc, who could have named the founders of Arby’s off the top of their head? The founders seemingly let the sandwich speak for itself, which it certainly did—and that’s probably why “roast beef” overshadows the Raffel Brothers in Arby’s name to this day.