Eat’n Park was born in June of 1949. I didn’t start working at the company until 1951, so the story that follows was handed down to me by my Father-in-law, Larry Hatch. He was the founder of the company, so I can’t think of any better source.
In 1948, Larry caught wind of a dining phenomenon that hadn’t yet hit Pittsburgh: the car hop restaurant. Despite the doubts of some of his colleagues and friends, Larry knew that the timing was ripe for a car service restaurant. He took out a second mortgage on his home to finance this drive-in restaurant that he would call Eat’n Park, located on Saw Mill Run (Rt. 51) in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. As far as business was concerned, the opening day of the restaurant was a huge success. Pittsburgh welcomed this new concept in a big way, too. The restaurant caused a huge traffic jam on Rt. 51 and cars couldn’t get into the full lot.
My sister-in-law, Betty Brown, worked inside on that first day and throughout that first summer. She told me that all customers were to receive free sundaes with their order, but to keep the waiting customers somewhat happy, the employees delivered free sundaes to them while they waited to place their orders. They even served those in line on Rt. 51. Some of them never got their orders in, but they couldn’t have been too upset when getting a free sundae. So, even on the first hectic day, Larry established the philosophy of doing your best to keep the customer happy. You might even say our roots as “the Place for Smiles” started on our very first day of business!
Retired President, Eat'n Park