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Richard N. Frank


1923 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
Richard N. Frank Obituary
May 5, 1923 - May 20, 2015 RICHARD N. FRANK, CHAIRMAN EMERITUS LAWRY'S RESTAURANTS, INC. Noted restaurateur and food industry pioneer Richard N. Frank passed away peacefully on May 20, 2015 in his Pasadena home. He was 92. He was a leader whose love of his work and respect for his heritage was felt by all who knew him. His vision, creativity, drive and willingness to take risks were the embodiment of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Mr. Frank believed he had a responsibility to give back to his community and acted on that belief throughout his lifetime. He was a great friend, mentor and source of strength and support for many. Above all, he was devoted to his family. In his sixty-five year long career, Mr. Frank's innovative efforts developed and built several thriving family businesses including Lawry's Foods, Inc., the maker of Lawry's Seasoned Salt and many other food products. He formed and expanded Lawry's Restaurants, Inc., proprietors of Lawry's The Prime Rib, the Tam O'Shanter, Five Crowns, SideDoor and Lawry's Carvery. The companies he headed are notable for their success, longevity, exemplary ethics and employee morale. He was born in Pasadena, CA, on May 5, 1923, the son of Lawrence L. Frank and Henrietta Van de Kamp Frank. In 1915, Lawrence and his brother-in-law Theodore Van de Kamp co-founded Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakers. With another brother-in-law, Walter Van de Kamp, Lawrence opened the Tam O'Shanter restaurant in 1922 and Lawry's The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills in 1938. They also co-founded a company that made Lawry's Seasoned Salt, originally created for the beef served at Lawry's The Prime Rib. Mr. Frank joined the family business in 1947, after graduating from Pomona College and attending the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He became president and CEO of his family's food and restaurant ventures in 1956, and organized them into two separate companies, Lawry's Foods, Inc., and Lawry's Restaurants, Inc. That same year, he created Lawry's Beef Bowl, the famed annual event at Lawry's The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills, which treats the Rose Bowl competitors to evenings of food and celebration the week prior to the game. A life-long college football fan, Mr. Frank attended the New Year's Day game for over eighty years. In 2005, he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in recognition of his enthusiastic support of the Rose Bowl tradition and the Tournament of Roses. Under Mr. Frank's leadership, Lawry's Foods grew from a fledgling enterprise into a thriving business. By the time it was sold to Thomas J. Lipton (a division of Unilever) in 1979, the Lawry's name and "fanciful L" trademark were famous from coast to coast and Lawry's Foods was producing close to 100 products, including Lawry's Seasoned Salt, North America's best-selling formulated seasoning. In addition, he conceived of and built Lawry's California Center to house the company's offices and principal manufacturing plant. For more than twenty-five years, the center's tours, gift shops and al fresco restaurants drew more than half a million visitors yearly to the Los Angeles landmark. Following his retirement in 1988 as CEO of Lawry's Foods, he continued to head Lawry's Restaurants until his son, Richard R. Frank, became its CEO in 1997. Mr. Frank served as the company's chairman until 2012 when his cousin, John Van de Kamp, succeeded him. Known for a time as the "king of theme restaurants," he launched several popular dining spots throughout California, including Five Crowns (still in operation today, fifty years later), Mediterrania, The Great Scot restaurants, Ben Jonson, Tonio's and Casey's Bar & Grill. He also successfully expanded the Lawry's The Prime Rib concept with new locations in the United States and franchise operations in Asia. Community service was an important part of Mr. Frank's life. He was a philanthropist who also gave generously of his time especially in support of education. His personal donations enabled the construction of Frank Dining Hall at Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and the athletic field and art studio at Westridge School in Pasadena, CA. He also aided the development of the Collins School of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly, Pomona, and established the school's Richard N. Frank Distinguished Lectureship Series. Mr. Frank was a trustee of Westridge School and Pomona College; a member of the Board of Advisors for the Collins School at Cal Poly, Pomona; a trustee of Art Center College of Design; a member of the Executive Advisory Council of the School of Management, UC Irvine; a director of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice and a director of AbilityFirst. An active participant in the restaurant industry and business community, he served as a president and director of the California Restaurant Assoc., a director of the Grocery Manufacturers Assoc. of America, a director of the Merchant and Manufacturers Assoc. and a member of the Los Angeles Rotary Club, the Young Presidents Organization, the Chief Executives Organization and the World Presidents Organization. He was a director of the Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company and the Thomas J. Lipton Company. Mr. Frank received numerous honors for business and community leadership, including the National Conference for Community and Justice's Humanitarian of the Year Award; honorary membership on the faculty of Cal Poly, Pomona; induction into the California Restaurant Association Hall of Fame; the California Restaurant Association's Lifetime Achievement Award and the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce's Pioneering Spirit Award. In 2012, Pomona College awarded him the Blaisdell Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his service and dedication to his alma mater. Mr. Frank was preceded in death by his loving wife of sixty-five years, Mary Alice, and his younger sister, Lorraine Petitfils. He is survived by his daughters, Laurie Wilson and Susie Frank, son Richard R. Frank; grandchildren, Merin Guthrie, Taylor and Carter Frank, Sarah Hannay and Ryan Wilson and great grandsons, Miles and Reed Hannay. For details about a memorial service contact Forest Lawn, Glendale at 800-204-3131 or forestlawn.com. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in memory of Mr. Frank be given to AbilityFirst and Pomona College.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on May 29, 2015
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