Where Were You in ’62?
In 1962 I was four, but when the movie American Graffiti was released in 1973, I was just coming of age. So the movie was a hit with me. I would daydream about cruising to the local drive-in, sipping shakes and munching fries.
If you haven’t seen the movie, well, you’ve probably been under a rock for some time, but it’s about a group of teenage kids spending one last night together after high school. And their local hangout is a place called Mels Original American Diners. In the movie, the restaurant is actually referred to as Mel’s Drive-In, but in real life it’s Mels The[e1] Original.
Fast forward to late winter 2010, when I got a call from a distributor representative asking me to reach out to Don Yakel, one of the owners of Mels restaurants. The rep said Mel’s was looking for a menu makeover.
When I talked with Don, my eagerness was probably as obvious as a drooling Labrador waiting for biscuit, but he didn’t let on that he could tell. Instead, Don outlined what he was looking for. Like many restaurant operators, he had been designing his own menu with the help of a local printer. That meant writing copy, laying out the menu, adding graphics and distributing the menu to multiple locations.
Don’s first priority was to make his menu look more in line with the movie, incorporating graphic elements that had been used on the album cover and movie posters. He also wanted the style and look of the various menus to be more uniform, so there would be a family resemblance rather than a hodgepodge of menus all unrelated to one another.