Quaker Steak & Lube to replace Damon’s in fall 2012

Ryan Lewis

Quaker Steak & Lube will replace Damon’s Grill in the Rathskeller this fall, Dining Services director Richard Roldan said.

Roldan set out to find a suitable replacement after having concerns with the stability of Damon’s Grill following the closing of all of its corporate stores in Ohio.

The opening date is September 24, a turnaround that Roldan said is aggressive but doable since each franchise uses similar kitchen equipment. Late September will allow the restaurant to start soon while also giving students returning to campus a chance to apply and receive training before the first day.

From a practical and perceptual standpoint, Quaker Steak & Lube made sense as Damon’s Grill’s successor.

“Bottom line, Quaker Steak & Lube was just the right fit,” Roldan said. “Everyone in the area knows it. The company is growing tremendously. Their future is on the upside, while Damon’s was going the other way.”

One of the main draws for Dining Services assistant director Dennis Bean was that Damon’s carried a “sit-down, dinner-style perception” while Quaker Steak & Lube can also offer a prompt “lunchtime” experience.

“One of the things we were looking to improve upon were our lunch menus,” Bean said. “We had a lot of perceptions with Damon’s being a dinner-style place, so can people go there for lunch and get out quick enough? Well, with Quaker Steak & Lube, we can get that perception out there that they can. It has the perception of being fun, quick and very service-orientated.”

Kent State continuously receives feedback on which restaurants and foods students prefer from year to year. Dining Services marketing specialist Tia Marie Protopapa said she knew a franchise such as Quaker Steak & Lube – whose corporate headquarters are in Sharon, Pa. – would provide for an easy transition after Damon’s did “very well.”

“We do a number of customer surveys to get a pulse of the students and to get a feel for what they’re looking for and how the current dining facilities are operating,” Protopapa said. “We also use a process based on all of the top ten most populated zip codes based on the population of campus, so you get an idea of where everyone is from and what they’re eating. And then on any given day, we get feedback through social media.”

Dining Services considered other restaurants for the spot, including Buffalo Wild Wings, which had a location in downtown Kent and is moving to another off-campus location.

Bean also said Quaker Steak & Lube’s lunch options provide a better fit for the Rathskeller. Bringing in another name brand over a self-operated restaurant was always the direction Kent State wanted. Roldan said he didn’t see enough value in moving from Damon’s to something less recognizable.

Contact Ryan Lewis at [email protected].