Dickity-dee.
April 2, 2024 3:10 AM   Subscribe

Who's the worst fast food mascot ever created? The Burger King? Phil A. O'Fish? Some would offer another possibility. Meet Mr. Delicious, the attempted post-modern deconstructionist mascot believed by some to be at least partly why the Rax restaurant chain only mostly died. You can watch a short video about the campaign, watch a longer video (mirror) about it from the company itself, read an article, or actually watch and listen to ads starring a balding, unhappy middle aged mascot for The Fast-Food Restaurant For Grown-Ups.
posted by BiggerJ (46 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mr. Delicious’ message was twofold: my life is a waking nightmare and the food at Rax is tasty and affordable.

Haven't watched the videos yet, but the more I read the more I think this campaign would work just fine in 2024.
posted by mmoncur at 3:21 AM on April 2 [14 favorites]


This was recently featured on a website I frequent, and whose continued existence I'm amazed by, old-internet survivor (and less-cruel Portal of Evil offshoot, although PoE was mitigated by its non-inferference Prime Directive) PoeTV.com. It could use some more members - although it does currently have over forty users of various levels of activeness. It just doesn't want to die. (If you're wondering who's running it, Poe Hosting apparently is.)

Also, I can't believe I forgot THAT slogan. Long before Peppino Spaghetti ever said 'you-a eat it'...

RAX: YOU CAN EAT HERE
posted by BiggerJ at 3:55 AM on April 2


My hometown had a Rax when I was a kid. I don't remember ever seeing a Rax commercial on TV nor have I ever heard of the mascot. We always liked the Rax roast beef sandwich.
posted by LoveHam at 4:11 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


As one who was entering the marketing/advertising world in 1980 as a graphic artist, I immediately recognize Mr. Delicious as the work of the senior creatives who held power in agencies at that time. They were practically walking stereotypes...early boomers, slipping into middle age, divorced, heavy drinkers, and utterly, unrepentantly misogynistic. I can practically hear them laughing their asses off over how great this idea was.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:24 AM on April 2 [16 favorites]


We used to get their roast beef sandwiches, but once we had some really bad food from the place and referred to it as "Rats" afterward. I was only aware of the one location, it didn't last more than a few years, and I'm pretty sure there were newspaper ads/coupons but I never saw/heard any TV or radio ads for them, and their mascot wasn't in those print ads.
posted by Foosnark at 4:38 AM on April 2


Just found a video featuring an interview with Rax's CEO, who exonerates Mr. D from the charge of killing the company.
posted by BiggerJ at 4:42 AM on April 2


I feel like I link this comic a lot, but maybe Rax hired Søren Kierkegaard to do their advertising.
posted by jackbishop at 4:43 AM on April 2 [16 favorites]


Dancing with Mr. D
posted by TedW at 5:34 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Just found a video featuring an interview with Rax's CEO, who exonerates Mr. D from the charge of killing the company.

I was about to post that video! I ran across it a few months back.

Basically, it was an early example of advertising agencies trying to work out how to sell to the famously advertising-adverse Gen X, alongside things like OK Cola. They did eventually crack it! But it required some weird detours first. It was created by an experimental marketing firm - so not the kind of boomer advertising executives you might imagine - and it was absolutely intended to be a satirical advertising mascot to stabilise the brand - him being kind of awful and misogynistic was absolutely the point - Ronald McDonald's this vile on the inside too, you know, Rax is just honest about its advertising. The brand definitely needed stabilising after the confused direction documented in the Vlogbrothers video, where they were too expensive to be fast food, but dedicated buffet restaurants like Sizzler were able to execute better on the quality-affordable-dining experience.

Anyway, the former CEO of Rax claims that sales were actually fine, what killed the company was an ill-advised merger with a large Hardee's franchisee, and being stuck with their failing stores. I don't know if I believe them about sales - I think it was too early for a cynical mascot to land the way they needed it to - but I absolutely believe that the merger described did fatal damage to the company.
posted by Merus at 5:57 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]


I feel like I link this comic a lot, but maybe Rax hired Søren Kierkegaard to do their advertising.

The hilarious thing is, Taco Bell doing that commercial today would be a huge winner for them.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:22 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]


Taco Bell + weird ads = Mighty Taco
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:40 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I was also reminded of OK Cola.

I can easily imagine this kind of campaign working today, with Mr D being portrayed by Rainn Wilson.
posted by adamrice at 6:47 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


If Mr. D was a new advertising campaign, he would have his own sit-com on Paramount+ by November.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:54 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Mr. D immediately strikes me as a Steve Allen doppelgänger; part of the concept would be that Allen probably wouldn't ever consent to it, if he had been asked. Anyway, the worst fast food mascot would have to be the Noid.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:07 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Great Decoder Ring episode about OK Soda
posted by stevil at 7:17 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


If you would like to find out more about advertising to Gen X and its origins, you will find Thomas Frank's nineties doctoral dissertation, The Conquest of Cool, an extremely readable and fun book.
posted by Frowner at 7:19 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


The worst food mascot is the current Cinnamon Toast Crunch mascot, who has eyes and a mouth and eats his fellow Cinnamon Toast Crunch creatures. You can't eat your own kind. it's not natural.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:20 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]


Where's Herb?
posted by Rash at 7:27 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


In related news, the spongmonkeys are back!
posted by TedW at 7:28 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


This kind of says it all in terms of a de-evolution into nothingness...

Slogans
"All the Right Stuff" - not bad. Kinda trendy in an 80's way.
"Fast Food with Style" - Also not bad; helps send a better message about the quality of the stores and the product.
"Gotta get back to Rax" - Understandable- helps imply that in the ever-widening fast food landscape, it's time to set those priorities
"I'd Rather Rax, Wouldn't You?" - Now we are slipping into a darker place. Is it ever a good idea to ask the customer this question? No! You must tell them what they should do! This weak entry opens the door to..

"You can eat here." - just the worst. The barest bones. The lowest bar. Who is really surprised they folded at this point?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:52 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


The Idiocracy cross-promotions could have been huge!
posted by Windopaene at 7:57 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


In contrast with the "earnest, saccharine, smiling happy families who appear to be having simultaneous orgasms because they're consuming hamburgers" found in the typical ad campaigns of the era, Mr D is delightful!
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 8:30 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


It was created by an experimental marketing firm - so not the kind of boomer advertising executives you might imagine - and it was absolutely intended to be a satirical advertising mascot to stabilise the brand - him being kind of awful and misogynistic was absolutely the point - Ronald McDonald's this vile on the inside too, you know, Rax is just honest about its advertising.

Sad Men.
posted by box at 8:32 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]


Rax peaked in the 80's salad bar era. Once that craze started to fade, I don't think the roast beef itself was enough to keep people coming back.
posted by bgrebs at 8:34 AM on April 2


I'd long forgotten about Rax until this post.

I still didn't remember much about them until I watched the video with all the ads. That weird space with all the curvy windows! Yes! I definitely ate there!
posted by gurple at 8:37 AM on April 2


Mr. D strikes me as a deeper-voiced Lorenzo Music (Garfield, Carlton your doorman).
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:02 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Mister Delicious should absolutely have his own talk show, a la Space Ghost.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:10 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


>> Mr. Delicious’ message was twofold: my life is a waking nightmare and the food at Rax is tasty and affordable.

> Haven't watched the videos yet, but the more I read the more I think this campaign would work just fine in 2024.


Oh the part that would work in 2024 is what someone else said:
> I immediately recognize Mr. Delicious as the work of the senior creatives who held power in agencies at that time. They were practically walking stereotypes...early boomers, slipping into middle age, divorced, heavy drinkers, and utterly, unrepentantly misogynistic.

Yeah, Mr. Delicious feels like he would be all up into that MAGA messaging. This is the closest thing to Trump Fast Food that I can think of.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:17 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


Oh wow...I hadn't thought of Rax in decades. It was one of the random American chains my family stopped at while traveling through the States when I was a kid, probably in part because it was something different (in the sense that there weren't any in Canada). This would have been long before the Mr. Delicious days and I don't have any memory of the food for good or ill, which still puts it ahead of Long John Silver's.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:18 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


This name Mr. Delicious is too close to Mr. Terrific for me. In his short-lived super-hero TV series, he was Stanley Beamish who would take a "power pill" which enabled him to fly (but only for one hour). Yes, of course - this was in 1967.
posted by Rash at 9:33 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I hadn't listened to the radio commercials. That's where Mr. D really lets his Don Draper shine.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:57 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I never saw the Mr. Delicious ads, but I did visit Rax a few times, when visiting my uncle in Charlottesville, Virginia. Even at the age of 11, I could tell that there was something off, something desperate about Rax, and I remember saying as much to my friends when I returned home. It seemed like a cut-rate kind of place (which is saying something, for a fast food restaurant) that was just trying so hard to be liked but not giving you any reason to like it.

I remember cracking up at the lameness of the Uncle Alligator mascot. Uncle A had nothin'.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:34 AM on April 2


This name Mr. Delicious is too close to Mr. Terrific for me.

A derail but…

Someone else remembers this show! Let’s not forget about Captain Nice, which is am pretty certain was run by NBC against CBS’s Terrific. Both shows utterly banal and 1960s appropriate.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 10:39 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I have a feeling Mr D would get along with Mr Pork - sinister 1980s British patriarch who talks to the camera about meat while surrounded by his mute family.
posted by rongorongo at 10:54 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]


Mr Pork

...Jesus Christ!

There are bodies in that basement, I guarantee it.
posted by aramaic at 11:08 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]


The comments on the Mr Pork youtube video are pretty good.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:28 AM on April 2


Abandoned Rax locations became a spot for "hermit crab" restaurants soon after. There was a Chinese takeout place in south Minneapolis in an obvious former Rax location (Rax-shaped, even had the "Rax" logo faintly faded into the exterior wood siding). I loved going to that place in the late 80s, the Chinese food was a lot better than Rax.
posted by gimonca at 11:34 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]


‘ Anyway, the worst fast food mascot would have to be the Noid.’

Speaking as the guy who was inside the Noid costume for multiple events in the mid-Atlantic region in the late eighties, I agree.

The suit stunk of failure and boy sweat, and the thrill of hanging out in the back smoking with the Baltimore Oriole and the Philly fanatic was short-lived at best.
posted by chronkite at 12:03 PM on April 2 [8 favorites]


Rax peaked in the 80's salad bar era. Once that craze started to fade...

*sigh* I miss Sizzler.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:06 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


I don’t know what it says about my life that we considered Rax to be fancy, but we did. I think that it was the first place I ever saw a self-serve ketchup and mustard station?
posted by chocotaco at 1:18 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]


My worst would be Chuck E. Cheese. I mean, seriously, a rat? Although I must say my nieces when young were instantly enamored with his muppet simulacra when we went to his restaurant and ran up to stroke his plastic nose, so there is that.
posted by y2karl at 1:51 PM on April 2


I think I went to a Rax in Oberlin, OH. For the salad bar and fountain drinks maybe?
posted by drowsy at 2:06 PM on April 2


I've really only ever had good fast food roast beef in New York delis/bodegas (usually Boar's Head) and Kelly's Roast Beef in the Boston area. Maybe the temptation to use cheaper cuts of meat is just too great if you feel the need to compete with McDonald's and taco bell? Every roast beef chain seems to enter into a weird state where they want you to believe it's a high end product, and it's just cheap fatty meat prepared and seasoned in a way that makes that obvious and gross.

People visiting New Orleans from the rest of the country sometimes order a roast beef po boy on a hot day, expecting a nice cool sandwich, and get disappointed when they got a hot sandwich with gravy, more like a pot roast. But honestly, hot and laden with gravy, mayo, and hot sauce on a baguette is just a better way to serve fatty cuts of beef.
posted by smelendez at 2:06 PM on April 2


Rax was run by people who made one insane decision after another until they jackhammered the place deep under the ground. They occupied a niche similar to Burger King's in relation to McDonalds, except Rax was roast beef, so their competition was Arby's.

Arby's that is still around and will be around for likely ever; Arby's with the spectacular three-stories-tall sign in the shape of a boner (Uhhuh. It's really a cowboy hat. Right.) with neon galore and endlessly crawling warm yellow bulb lights drawing people in like Vegas and the sign says "ARBY'S ROAST BEEF SANDWICH IS DELICIOUS," in huge letters and that is the ad campaign, now and forever. It's not weird, it's not edgy, it doesn't change, ever, and it says what the hell the place is. Faced with this juggernaut, the Rax boys attempted to copy Burger King and "go upscale." They tried to differentiate themselves with their salad bar and their idiotic goddamn "atrium," which heated up to a flaming boil after about 9:30 a.m. and remained unendurable all day every day in every month other than, like, January.

The ex Rax exec in that weird video makes a good point that Rax led the salad bar charge and then got screwed because everybody else hopped on board and soon even Wendy's had a salad bar and that would have been fine because Rax's was superior, but then pretty soon you had the feed-trough places like Ryans and Golden Corral with epic salad bars and then Rax couldn't compete anymore because they were limited to the "fast food footprint." But so then given that, why in the hell did you devote whatever, 2000 square feet or whatever it was of the restaurant to uninhabitable greenhouse space in a deranged attempt to look like a fern bar?

I worked the Rax salad bar when I was 15 years old, which seems like it must have been right around the time the restaurant entered its elderly cockroach death spasm of bad impulsive decisions. It's easily the worst job I have ever had, way worse than doughnut waitress at the Mister Donut where the boss's cokehead son snuck into the office every night after close to steal money out of the waitresses' bags. My Rax manager refused to make any effort to get fresh produce in. I was putting out moldy peas and miserable limp spinach, and customers were enraged. But they didn't have money to buy lettuce and fake bacon bits because they were spending who knows how much money trying to air condition the dining room to offset the blazing hot atrium plus more for the new menu items the corporate crazies came up with every week (chocolate chip shakes! That's a vanilla shake with a dose of ersatz chocolate sauce that's full of Crisco to make it harden into "chips" when it hits the cold dairy slurry! Mmmmmmmm!) to try to drag those big-money grown-ups in to their "real restaurant!" Well, no. Because one of the Raxes was a block away from the high school and the other one was across the street from the mall. Rax's customers were teenagers and tour buses and the dining rooms were zoological.

It's too bad because the place was kind of fun with the curly fries and the new stuff all the time. But they just got overextended. I could not believe my ears when the exec said their main ad money went to direct mail. Direct mail? WTF? Big signs visible from the highway, radio, TV, two-second jingle. You're fast food. Just be fast food.
posted by Don Pepino at 4:20 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]


I longed for toast bars.
Keto and paleo would have put the kibosh on them, if toaster-related lawsuits didn't get there first.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:08 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]


I am watching the short video about this campaign and, huh, some of the shots of the "weird greenhouse atrium" look *exactly* like the Wendy's we'd go to when I was a kid that had this weird greenhouse-like component. I wonder if it was a former Rax. They pretty much always had the shades drawn, a pretty sensible choice when you're in New Orleans.
posted by egypturnash at 6:19 PM on April 2


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