When ladies lunched: Schrafft’s

 

Schrafft’s began as a candy manufacturer in Boston but over time morphed into a well-known restaurant chain. In 1898 Frank G. Shattuck, a salesman for the Schrafft company from upstate New York, opened a candy store at Broadway and 36th in New York. His sister, Jane Shattuck, was largely responsible for the introduction of light lunches into the stores. The first to serve food was the Syracuse store in 1906 where a “Japanese Tea Room” (shown here) was boldly advertised as “the daintiest luncheon spot in all the State.” By 1909 Jane also introduced meals to the second NYC Schrafft’s, at 54 West 23rd Street in the heart of a thriving shopping district. By 1927, when there were 25 units, most located in NYC, the Wall Street Journal estimated that around 75% of Shattuck’s business was in the restaurant trade, with the rest candy-related.

Schrafft’s was known for reproducing an air of gentility typical of the upper middle-class WASP home. Cooks, supervisors, and even some executives were women. Menus of the 1920s and 1930s included many salads, more desserts than entrees, and non-restaurant-y vegetable selections such as creamed cauliflower and fried eggplant. Frank claimed Schrafft’s cuisine was inspired by his mother’s cooking. Repeated efforts to overcome connotations of a “women’s restaurant” and attract men met with disappointing results despite customers such as James Beard. Women dominated even after some units began to serve cocktails in 1934.

Rent cuts in the depression encouraged chain expansion and by 1937, when Frank died, there were 43 Schrafft’s, most in metro NYC but a few in Boston and Philadelphia. At its peak (early 1960s?) there were about 50 units in greater NYC. In the late 1960s the Schrafft’s candy company was sold to Helme Products while Pet, Inc. took over the restaurants. Pet made a renewed effort to renovate Schrafft’s image and attract men. At the Fifth Ave location (between 45th & 46th) the soda fountain was removed and a bar installed. The second floor, men-only dining room was given dark wood paneling, zebra-stripe carpeting, and named “The Male Animal.” The 1970s saw confusion as a Schrafft’s opened in Los Angeles (sporting a Chinese room and an Elizabethan room), new ownership took control, and numerous NYC locations were shut down. In 1981 the candy company ceased while the few restaurants remaining were in various hands.

© Jan Whitaker, 2008

47 Comments

Filed under food, history, restaurants

47 responses to “When ladies lunched: Schrafft’s

  1. Was there a Schraffts near 72nd and Broadway in the 50’s ?

    • I don’t think so but it’s quite difficult to be certain. In 1964 the company published a NY walking map for visitors to the World’s Fair which showed the locations then and this is the only complete list I’ve seen from any date close to the 1950s. On that map the nearest location to 72nd and Broadway is at 82nd and Broadway (2285 Bdwy). It had also been there in the 1950s. The map is shown in Joan Kanel Slomanson’s book When Everybody Ate at Schrafft’s.

  2. Anonymous

    I worked at Schrafft’s in the mid 60’s, during the summer. An illness caused me to leave. Is Schrafft’s still in existence? How do I contact their corporate offices?

      • yprofet

        Sadly Schrafft’s is gone. Not sure what you did there but is it at all possible that you know the recipe for the fudge candy they use to sell. I remember getting the chocolate, maple and chocolate with a marshmallow middle. I have been trying for years to get the recipe and any help will be greatly appreciated.

  3. My Mom worked at the Schrafft’s Restaurant on Chestnut Street in Philly and then eventually she managed the one at 6 Penn Center in Philly back in the 50’s-60’s. I remember going there so many times, I worked there also at the candy counter when I was in high school!! I was so excited when the Army-Navy game came into town because I was in my teens and would help as a hostest! What memories!

  4. Yolanda Profet

    I have tried for years to get the recipe for Schrafft’s Fudge Candy, the chocolate and maple. I also remember one that was chocolate with a marshmallow middle. Any help in pointing me in the right direction would be appreciated.

  5. This subject as well as this website is without a doubt one of my all time favorite subjects and places to visit! My battle cry, ” Let’s Bring Back Schrafft’s,” is fashioned after the belief that is FAO Schwartz, one of, if not the most popular toy store in the nation albeit, in the world, can be resurrected from the dead so can Schrafft’s, a ground breaking experience in middle American dinning be restored to it’s rightful place in American society. Revisiting the growth and development of Schrafft’s through it’s 50 year plus evolution, and reading, sort-to-speak between the lines, one can clearly interpret the importance and success Schrafft’s ultimately achieved in creating, food and beverage establishments that fulfilled several important purposes; both practical and entertaining….Put in clear basic terms, Schrafft’s was a place where for the price of a usual or slightly above usual luncheon selection, patrons could thoroughly enjoy excellent service from waitresses dressed in freshly starched uniforms who dotted the landscape from behind the counters or table side.. Always with a smile, and ordering books handy, luncheon selections including classy desserts, were taken with a flurry of efficiency accompanied by wide, friendly smiles. Schrafft’s was by all standards and inclusive of all locations, a daytime happening event. After exhaustive shopping ventures, sightseeing, Broadway browsing, the fact that women could be served a ‘noon time high ball’ well within acceptable social boundaries while their children sipped on the best ice cream sodas in the world, only proved to further characterize and deepen the mystique that permeated the atmosphere and diverse dining experience at Schrafft’s.
    I have fallen in love all over again now with all the memories I have accrued frequenting Schrafft’s over the years of my youth with my very special person, Aunt Maggie, who also held Schrafft’s in a place of high esteem…And her opinion was not ever to be taken lightly since both she and her husband, Uncle Pat, had in fact themselves been owners and operators of a very successful restaurant located in the heart of NYC started during ‘the Great Depression’ years….” No easy task, Martha,” she would often say. And I hung onto every word of those restaurant stories which were, for a starry-eyed pubescent girl, the stuff that dreams were made of……The drama of waking at 3 or 4 am, getting to work in the dark, opening a locked restaurant, taking deposits safely to the local bank, creating affordable, appealing menus, waiting on customers, butchering meat in the walk-in freezer, and the abundance of small chores all of which combined at the counter to provide a well balanced, well cooked, affordable meal in the 1920’s/30’s. Their restaurant was called “The Piccadilly,” located at 168th St. and Columbia -Presbyterian, just opposite the old Babies Hospital, and near the bus station to change to the Red & Tan lines that traveled throughout New Jersey. Might there be anyone out there who can recall The Picadelly, or maybe even have vintage photos?
    Thank you Vicky for all the valuable victualling you have done, for the inspirational articles you have contributed, for keeping ‘the faith’, and for your web site, because we can recreate the experience and with a heap of effort renew an unspoken contract the founders of Schrafft’s made with the public-at-large….. “LET’S BRING BACK SCHRAFFTS” … more to come……think about how nice it would be right now walking through the sparkling glass doors at the 58th street location or the 34th St. Mezzanine location walking in to that aroma of fresh turkey dinner and grilled cheese sandwiches!—Just think about having that uniqueness all over again.

  6. Buffy Alten

    I had my first Tom Collins at Schrafft’s in NYC… when I was 16 yrs old. I went with my sister. My grandmother used to take us there after shopping at Best & Co. LOVED it!

  7. Anonymous

    Can anyone confirm that there was a Schrafft’s at 110 Church Street in NY?

  8. Rich Nykerk

    Ii remember my folks lived in Washington Heights during the 1950’s. I came home on furlough from the Army and they took me to Schraffts in the Times Sqaure area. Not sure of the location as it was in 1951. I was dressed in civvies with no coat and tie. As I entered the restaurant, I was told I had to put on a jacket that they gave me made out of some kind of paper material and a bow tie. Otherwise I couldnl’t eat there with my folks. As I remember, food was served in large bowls on the table and you chose what you wanted. Fond memories.

  9. Martha Hoffman

    Martha Hoffman
    BRING BACK SCHRAFFT’S !!!!

    When I stop to think of all my childhood memories that were created in and around NYC for many, many years, at the top of the list along side shopping in Gimbels basement and Macy’s Dept. Store was lunching with my Great Aunt Maggie Byrne at Schrafft’s, and I am guessing it was the one at 54th & 23rd. I just barely remember the long, curving counter, may have been pink and the swivel chairs, a golden-straw looking color or maybe even black or grey in one location. There was gum stuck under the counters (in all locations) and for which I was seriously “rebuked,” for even attempting to look. I also for-sure did some serious “swiveling” while waiting for the lunch order to be taken, and for that wonderfully warm and creamy grilled cheese to be served, with a pickle, a few chips, and milk. Dessert? Sometimes, but that was often waived in lieu of getting 3 Schrafft’s brand of lollipops for a buck at the cashier’s desk. There were probably eight or nine flavors in total from which to choose only 3. The huge plate glass doors made a distinct sound as they were in constant motion from being pushed and pulled open non-stop from the masses, not too mention the aroma that just 1 of those “swooshing’ sounds made.
    But Schrafft’s was the place! Yes, for women and for young women and for little women (girls)…..almost in the same way an “all girls school” is described as creating a special learning environment, creating academic challenges unequaled in co-ed schools. And in creating culturally, social experiences unrivaled by years of socializing and dating both upper and lower classmen. In the co-ed world it was all right there. ..too easy, as Aunt Maggie use to say. But a day in the city with an afternoon stop at Schrafft’s made all the difference by making all the necessary adjustments quickly. We walked into Schrafft’s as wanton women and walked out as sanctified, ratified, half baked, classy, cat lily’s, smelling of high-minded morals and Yardley Soaps.
    So along with all the melancholia, and memorabilia making its way back onto the streets and scenes of NYC, and with whole neighborhoods being re-designed and constructed to reveal the early colonial charm of a young and budding 19th century commercial America, I cast a strong vote here, now, in this brief description of a landmark that must be renewed, re-created, re-christened and above all returned to its rightful owner: the throngs of NYC women and families who kept the soda fountain, the dessert cases, and starchy-pink uniforms of the waitresses fresh. LET’S BRING BACK SCHRAFFT’S RESTAURANT!!!

    PS With copies of all the old print advertising.

  10. chris

    I have an old tin Schrafft’s candy box.

    • Martha Hoffman

      Can you post a picture of this tin? It might help to joggle some memories for sure and may help us to design a new one for a second chance and possibly a “re-opening of Schrafft’s.” Any pictures of the original advertising, products, especially tins, etc. will be helpful. This is a great time to collect ideas, thoughts and best of all memories as a way to design a future opening of “Schrafft’s.”

  11. Joy Sammis Purnell

    In 1967 — Schraffts made our beautiful wedding cake! In n y c — it was then brought out to Huntington long island to the bohacks grocery store that used to sell their products!! (this saved my daddy from having to go to NYC to pick it up! My mom, me and my bridesmaids went to see it in bohacks fridge the day before the wedding! The cake was all Lilly of the valley in butter cream! It looked so real that people wanted to touch it to see if it was or not! It was — 4 tiers tall! — had been on the cover of a brides magazine! We still think it was the best looking and testing wedding cake ever!!

  12. Eileen

    My mother used to take me to matinees on Broadway and/or the Holiday shows at Radio City Music Hall followed by ice cream at Schrafft’s. It always seemed so fancy to me. Great memories.

  13. GERONIMO

    I HAD LUNCH AT SCHRAFFTS 5TH AVE EVERY DAY FOR 2 YEARS IN THE 1970’S.MY GIRLFRIEND JANE KLUFER WENT TO MILLS COLLEGE ON W 11TH ST, AND SHE GOT LUNCH THERE GREAT FOLKS AND FOOD.

  14. margo

    I remember going to Best and Company for haircuts and then off to Schrafft’s. Years later I found myself in the classroom of Dr Shattuck , who taught Sociology at Fordham University. I think he was a grandson, and he was a fabulous teacher! Such a small world!!

  15. Pingback: New York (Food) Diaries | Leite's Culinaria

  16. Most of the comments here are from happy customers with fond memories of times gone by. That brings a smile to my face. I have a different experience. While working as a waiter in college at a couple of fine Georgetown restaurants in the 60’s, I became intrigued by the restaurant business. Returning to NYC, I was hired by Schrafft’s in the mid-sixtiees and was a part of changing the “little old ladies eating tea sandwiches” image. Pet Milk seemed to be an odd match but they had the money and supported Frank Shattuck, Jr’s new vision for the company.

    I remember top management’s first ill conceived steps in that direction. They thought they could change the image overnight by bringing in Andy Warhol and James Beard to help give the impression that it was catering to a sophisticated and hip customer. The follow thru was weak not just for the reason that most of the top managment in the chain were very heavy drinkers…if you know what I mean, but the food on the plate and the logo on the silverware remained unmistakenly Schafft’s. Not to mention the cost controls and auditing was loose as a goose. Ultimately, that is what brought the company down.

    • My Mom gave over 20 years to the company and when they were making the changes, in 1971 one day they came in and demoted her an assistant manager and transferred her over 50 miles away to another restaurant. Up to that time I had wonderful memories.. My Dad had MS and there was no way she could be that far away from him! So she had no other option but to quit.

      • ” Striving For The Stars ”

        Sue, I was sorry to read about your mother’s employment situation with Schrafft’s. Over the years of my experience ( and most of the time my experience was from a child’s view) I came to see Schrafft’s as a positive place that I loved to frequent with my great aunt Margaret. She, an avid, experienced New Yorker, was a great companion and guide, ushering us through the narrow, windy, noisy streets of one of the greatest cities in the world! In fact nearly everything associated with Aunt Maggie, was positive and Schrafft’s was no exception.So, when I read your story today I was saddened that a place that was usually so positive had such negative consequences for a family that really could have used a helping hand….In my experience, a very unusual event when compared to the number of positive reports from employees of that era.
        I would like to bring Schrafft’s back, with the original interior restaurant design, uniforms, colors, but with some specific updating. Not unlike how FAO Schwartz was rescued from the brink of extinction,..I envision the same experience for Schrafft’s, so that current and future generations can have the same exceptional palate, dining and socially pleasing experiences the past generations have. Basically , a “Luncheonette,” with a twist of sophisticated “high brow,” as we matured in age along with the years Schrafft’s racked up in service, there was not then or now any other place that offered the coiffured experience in casual daytime dining…and that was the very special part..Lunch, just plain ol’ lunch was elevated to a status that could have and probably in some case scenarios did compete with the very few other places throughout the globe that served “quail drenched a’ la flambe” or fresh, warm, fancy egg salad on rye toast points for lunch. Not too mention the exquisite, velvety milk shakes that accompanied any meal with a mere request!
        However all of that withstanding,and getting back to your reporting, I wish there could have been some helpful correction made for your mother especially after 20 years of service and the heavy family life responsibilities she shouldered..It’s hardly enough to simply say, “It happens,” We know that all too frequently those that need the most support don’t get it. So, looking then on the other side of the coin, the way I would respond is to say that should my dream about Schrafft’s ever come into being, or fruition in my lifetime, I would ask those people,like your mother, who are due a correction to please step to the head of the Schrafft’s employment line. Then let’s talk about what can be done, mutually agreeable. This is after all, OUR reality show about Restauranteering, and we should “strive for the stars.”

    • I too worked for Schrafft’s around the time you did although my Schrafft’s days were interrupted by Vietnam from Nov 1965 through Sep 1967. I was a soda jerk pre Vietnam at 13th st and 5th Avenue; and a bartender at 59th and Madison and later a manger of various locations and a supervisor before going with Steak and Brew which later became Beefsteak Charlies.

  17. Richard Rourke

    One of my fond memories as a young boy in the mid 50’s visting my Grandmother (Nana) and my Aunt Mae (RIP) who lived in Inwood, NYC, and took my brother and I to Schrafft’s many times. We were 8 & 9 years old and before we were seated they provided us with suit coats to wear. Needless to say, the jackets were 10 times to big and had to roll the sleeves up a few times.

  18. Marie

    One of my fondest memories as a child was accompanying my two great aunts to Shrafft’s for lunch in Syracuse. My sister and I would be dressed in our finest and my aunts taught us how to properly greet their many friends who also were sure to be there! Does anyone say “How do you do?” anymore?

    • Nancy Lowenstein Gramann

      We lived in Eastwood. My Grandmother would take me to Schraffts on South Warren Street, I believe. The place was dark (mahogany) with mirrors and chandeliers. I loved the tea sandwich tray. Wish I could find a photo or a postcard of it.

  19. Because Schrafft’s made their own coffee syrup, no one could ever compare, then or now, with their legendary coffee ice cream soda.
    Wonderful and special Saturday memories of childhood; first a piano lesson and then Schrafft’s.

  20. Laura Balem

    I was married in 1969, and had my reception at the Schraffts in White Plains, NY. It was a large banquet room and there were approx. 65 guests. I wonder if this is the same Schraffts. Did Schraffts host wedding receptions?

    • There was a Schrafft’s at 193 Main Street in White Plains as far back as the 1930s, so I’d be fairly sure your reception was held at THE Schrafft’s. Plus, I’ve never run across any other Schrafft’s. They usually had some private rooms so it’s likely they would host functions of any sort.

  21. Kay Mooney

    I remember eating at Schraffts in Boston at Park Square. We worked on a project at work on Saturdays and our boss took us to lunch each day at Schraffts. We would all have the breakfast. I can still taste it. My aunt also used to take us there…. very fond memories. Now I am older than my aunt
    at the time… this was back in the early 60’s…

  22. I fondly remember another part of Schrafft’s, the non commerical operations in NYC. The management company was acquired by Saga Foodservice in the early 70’s. My trips to New York included visits to more than one company’s foodservice operations in the same building, a converted “Farmhouse” executive dining room in the upper floors of a high rise, American Can, Diamond sugar, etc. The management team was so sophisticated compared to Saga, the recipes were tops and it was amazing to see how they got on phones to call in temps every day for no shows (so service to the customer and clients remained seamless).

  23. Mike McMahon

    I worked for the last of the Schraffts. I was a driver for Schraffts ice cream.
    It was a graet job, and a great ice cream.

  24. In the early 60s my wife worked in the White Plains restaurant and still retains many happy memories of that period, her name then was Pat Mc Quaid I wonder if any of her old workmates are still around from that period?

  25. Judy Yager

    Found this article in a search when I found a spoon marked “FRANK G SHATTUCK CO.” on the back of the handle and a large monogram “S” on the top front of the handle. The spoon is in excellent condition and is Oneida Hotel Plate Triple. Anyone know anything about this spoon?

    • Mary Graiko

      Judy, I don’t know anything about the spoons, but I have 12 of them and also have 13 pcs with schraffs fifth avenue on the back. I’ve been trying to fin d out more info. Mary

  26. I regularly ate there with my mother, older sister and grandmother in the early to mid-60s whenever we Jerseyites came into “the City” to do the Fifth Avenue department stores, or just to spend time with my grandmother. I remember a dark, genteel atmosphere, though not what you’d call fancy exactly. Lady-like. The way older museum restaurants today still feel, perhaps. I always had a turkey club on toast (slathered with mayo) and a chocolate ice cream soda. The food was good.

  27. Peg Gilmour

    I recently found (in the bottom of a drawer) a booklet entitled “Rules for Waitresses” The Schrafft’s Stores, Frank G. Shattuck Co. This booklet has no date printed on it, but was from the Schrafft’s in Syracuse, New York. This is a precious piece of memorabilia and should be preserved. Do you know whom I could contact about this copy?

    • Lucky you! You could post an alert on e-Bay and then if another Schrafft’s booklet like yours came up you could see what it sold for. If you are thinking of donating it, you might contact the NYPL.

  28. I certainly remember the Schrafft’s that was on Broadway near Maiden Lane (that’s the Wall Street section of NYC). That’s where I had my first summer job at age 16 and I had the pleasure of washing dishes in their basement. They did give me a free lunch before starting work. And we were so lucky when the fountain clerks would send down with the dishes an empty tup of ice cream with some left at the bottom. That was one of my fond memories of growing up in NYC. Lucky me again; I’m no longer washing dishes in any restaurant. To paraphrase Costanza and Seinfeld, “not that there’s anything wrong with washing dishes…”

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