Rib-it Restaurants To Be Sold Rimmeir Even Giving Up 'Funion Loaf'

Posted: April 23, 1987

Showman and rib purveyor Paul Rimmeir said yesterday that he has agreed to sell his five Rib-It restaurants because it was time for him to "enjoy life."

Steven Lewis, president of U.S. Restaurants Inc. in Norristown, said he and partner Vernon W. Hill 2d were paying an undisclosed amount for the restaurants, the name, and even Rimmeir's patent for the "funion loaf," a side dish made of fried onion rings pressed into a block.

Lewis said few changes in Rib-It's menu, which is headed by barbecued baby back ribs, and operations are likely. After the sale is completed, probably in June, Lewis and Hill, who is founder and chief executive of Commerce Bancorp of Marlton, will study whether and how the chain might be expanded.

Their U.S. Restaurants Inc. operates 21 Burger King fast-food restaurants in Bucks and Montgomery Counties and 31 Ponderosa Steakhouses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They will form a new company, U.S. Dining, for the Rib-It outlets, Lewis said.

Rimmeir, who opened a pasta restaurant in Old City about two months ago, said yesterday that the time had come to sell the Rib-It chain.

"I'm going to be 62 in July. . . . I just want to enjoy life, my wife and I. We've both worked hard all our lives," he said, adding that health conditions also were prompting him to cut back.

He said he was traveling to Miami today to pick up a 70-foot yacht he is buying from a friend. For the next week or so, he said, he will be bringing it to Philadelphia.

Rimmeir said he planned to keep his new Louie Linguini restaurant, a 60- seat eatery at 104 Chestnut St., but "that's it. No more."

Before founding Rib-It in 1978, Rimmeir was best known locally as owner of the Philadelphia Boat Show and other local exhibitions.

That role encouraged him to develop his flair for promotion, a talent he employed on his restaurants' behalf after getting out of the boat-show business in 1981.

Rib-It restaurants feature relatively limited selections, though duck has just been added, at prices under $10.

Through a generous advertising budget and through promotions linking Rib-It with such popular figures as Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan, Rimmeir has expanded beyond the original restaurant in Old City to locations on Walnut Street in Center City and in Media and King of Prussia and Cherry Hill.

Traveling in a chauffeured limousine bearing the license plate "RIBBS," Rimmeir visits each of his restaurant most days.

The need for that sort of personal attention, Rimmeir said, was why he could never franchise Rib-It. He tried opening Rib-It outlets in Atlantic City, Washington and New York, but they failed without his attention to ''quality control."

Rimmeir said he was convinced that Lewis and Hill were capable of maintaining that quality control.

"They're going to continue with what we've started. It will be better for my employees," he said.

Lewis said, "We'll do some remodeling, that's for sure," bringing "a little more light" into Rib-It's somewhat dark dining rooms.

Lewis said that Rib-It "fits very well into our long-range strategy of diversification" within the restaurant business, because its "upscale" atmosphere was different from the essentially fast-food nature of its other operations.

As for expanding the Rib-It chain, Lewis said, "Over the first year we're going to look at what we have and look at what the potential of it is."

"Ribs, in themselves, hold well and they travel well," he said.

U.S. Restaurants expects sales this year to be $62 million, Lewis said.

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