What Is Tony Roma’s?
We are THE place for RIBS, and our loyal fans
love us for a lifetime
Tony Roma’s is THE place for RIBS. Our fans have been rolling up their sleeves and enjoying our mouthwatering and craveable ribs all over the world — from Illinois to Indonesia to Ireland — for nearly 45 years. Today our iconic brand is stronger than ever, with a new restaurant design and a popular new innovative menu. We’ve stayed loyal to the core DNA that has made us famous worldwide, and we’re attracting the next generation of loyal Tony Roma’s fans.
The original concept was launched in 1972 as a Miami steak and burger restaurant by colorful businessman Tony Roma. Tony loved nothing better than to throw a good party and serve good party food. His restaurant was a fun and funky establishment, where waitresses wearing go-go boots served steaks and burgers. Tony was known for rubbing elbows with celebrities like Tony Bennett, for making multiple marriage proposals and for a resume that included managing the world-famous Playboy Club.
Though Tony Roma’s namesake restaurant is now known as the pioneer of baby back ribs in America, they were originally added to the menu on somewhat of a whim. The mouthwatering, memorable ribs cooked up by Chef David Smith were such a hit, however, that they became the signature menu item that attracted fans from around the world.
“I love parties,” Tony said. “So I serve partyin’ food. When you’re eating ribs with your hands, whether you’re a Rockefeller or a Roma, you’re on the same level.”
The foundation that the Tony Roma’s leadership is building today is helping to solidify the future for our current franchisees, as well as for new investors, and bringing new generations of fans and families through our doors to experience Tony Roma’s.
There really was a Tony Roma
Chef David’s impromptu menu addition in the early 1970s went on to define the perfect formula for baby back ribs for food lovers worldwide. The baby back ribs served at Tony Roma’s catapulted the brand to restaurant stardom, leading to the establishment of Tony Roma’s as an American original and iconic brand loved by restaurant-goers internationally.
Tony Roma’s guests loved the food, and they also loved that they could relax, eat ribs with their fingers and enjoy the company of others; the simple menu and reasonable prices gave customers an experience similar to that of their neighborhood bar. Tony also scheduled nightly entertainment and kept the kitchen open late, so people began traveling from miles around to savor the ribs, desserts and casual atmosphere found only at Tony Roma’s. The rest, they say, is history. Sadly, Tony Roma passed away in 2003. We may have lost the man, but we’ll never lose his name and legacy.
Ribs craze rapidly expands worldwide
Rapid franchising expansion for Tony Roma’s began in the late 1970s, after Dallas Cowboys owner Clint Murchison Jr. fell in love with Tony Roma’s ribs and bought majority stake in the restaurant. This expansion phase led to our first international location — Tokyo in 1979 — and today we are well over 150 locations strong in more than 30 countries.
Barbecue is a beloved staple of American cuisine, but when Tony Roma’s brought baby back ribs on the scene in the early 1970s, they weren’t easily attainable without hitting a less-refined barbecue joint. Today they are the signature item that launched Tony Roma’s to worldwide fame.
Tony Roma’s 2.0 introduces a new
generation to our brand
U.S. millennials have an unmatched emotional connection to the Tony Roma’s brand. They remember Tony Roma’s from childhood, perhaps from celebrating a birthday or other special occasion with family and friends. One thread that holds true throughout the fun and celebratory Tony Roma’s experience, whether you are polishing off a rack of baby back ribs at the flagship restaurant in Orlando or at one of our newest restaurants — such as the Thunder Bay location in Canada — is the consistent, high quality of our food and customer service.
People go out of their way to visit a Tony Roma’s, and there is ample room for expansion. Although we have been aggressively expanding internationally, we want to introduce our mouthwatering food to a whole new generation of fans in the United States and Canada. Our modernized restaurant design and updated menu focuses on even more ways to try ribs. We also offer a more-extensive beer menu that features local craft beers unique to each restaurant’s location.
Tony Roma’s is THE place for RIBS, and we’ve focused on what makes us great. Led by our ribs, grilled items and other iconic offerings, such as the signature Onion Loaf and our steaks, we’re focusing on local communities through our craft beer section and partnerships with area breweries. America has more than 4,000 breweries, according to Fortune magazine, and craft breweries’ market share has doubled since 2010.
“Nothing goes better with our mouthwatering ribs than beer. With Americans’ love for beer at an all-time high, we are excited to give customers more of what they want,” President and CEO Stephen K. Judge says.
New leadership for a new era
A restaurant and hospitality industry veteran, Stephen and his leadership team are poised to take Tony Roma’s into new cities in the U.S. and Canada. We are taking steps to open 250 new locations over the next decade.
We have the systems and staff in place to implement and roll things out efficiently and effectively. The convergence of all these positive changes, from newly conducted menu satisfaction research, customer and franchisee satisfaction surveys and exciting new restaurant design/new construction, is ushering Tony Roma’s into a new era. Our existing franchise base and new investors are benefitting from the revamped systems and support tools.