Quaker Steak & Lube®
Revving Up For Hot Wings & A Good Time
George Warren and Gary Meszaros opened the first Quaker Steak & Lube® — or “The Lube,” as it’s affectionately called — in 1974. The original location was a converted gas station in Sharon, Pa., and its biggest draw was the “cook-your-own-steak” option.
By 1976, the owners had dropped that feature in favor of focusing mainly on Buffalo wings accompanied by signature sauces, including original BBQ and intensely hot (New additions include dusted chipotle BBQ, dusted island jerk and Sriracha-inspired). What sets the chain apart from its competitors, apart from the fact that consumers now have a choice of 25 sauces, is that the family-friendly restaurants are motor themed, and decorated with vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles.
"The chain’s dedication to its core theme is one of many reasons why it’s so successful and continues to expand."
During the early 1980s, Katy Malaniak joined the company because it looked like a fun place to work. “I guess initially it was the availability of jobs as a teenager,” she says, “but I found out that I really loved the people and the ever-changing atmosphere.”
Today Malaniak boasts more than 30 years with The Lube, and she’s risen through the ranks to become the chain’s senior director of food & beverage. She credits the chain’s dedication to its core theme as one of many reasons why it’s so successful and continues to expand. The privately held company boasts more than 60 locations, including venues in Canada.
The majority of locations are freestanding, in service station-style buildings, with old-fashioned gasoline pumps and large neon signs encouraging customers to “EAT.” The interiors are divided into several rooms, each with an atmosphere of its own created by memorabilia and full-size classic vehicles suspended from the ceiling and walls. Themed rooms include “Thunder Alley” with racing cars, the “’Vette VVVroom” with Corvettes, and a “Handle Bar” biker bar with motorcycles hanging overhead, big-screen televisions and barstools fashioned from aluminum wheels. Each location also includes a retail store called the Body Shop, where the chain’s retail sauces, T-shirts, hats and other merchandise are sold. The typical unit also incorporates a family-friendly game room, a brickyard outdoor patio with a full-service bar and seating for approximately 100 customers.
Malaniak says the company’s big on promotions, and her favorites are those that are all-inclusive. “We have a couple that are super-successful,” she continues. “One is our Tuesday all-you-can-eat wing night, which attracts people from all age groups, but for the younger crowd, it’s a social event. Our other successful promotion is our ‘bike night’ events we do in the parking lot in the summer. It’s a great crowd of people and attracts both riders and non-riders.”
But no matter how great the concept, food or location, Malaniak has learned the greatest lesson of all during her 30 years in the restaurant business: “Treat your staff like GOLD; they are the key to your success.”