The Story of An American Diner:
1947 – 1975
As a restaurant industry leader, MELS started its existence back in 1947 as Mels Drive-Ins in San Francisco. The first auto hop eatery was founded by David "Mel" Weiss and Harold Dobbs, influenced by similar restaurants serving motorists in Los Angeles. The first unit did not take long to multiply into eleven! With additional clusters in Stockton and Sacramento gaining their own prominence, Six Mels became icons in the Bay Area. They governed for nearly 20 years, rising to more than 35 restaurants. In the 1960s, Mels Drive-Ins peaked in popularity and finished selling in 1972.
1985 – 1987
Steven Weiss, the son of David "Mel" Weiss, had an itch to bring back the good times" of Mels. In 1985, a grand re-opening of Mels Drive-In took place as a result of his son's demands. There were opportunities to expand soon afterward and 3 more restaurants were added by Mels Drive-Ins. Between father and son, an unfortunate rift formed. "Soon after an agreement was reached that David "Mel" Weiss would continue as The Original Mels," while Mels "Next Generation" would be produced by his son, Steven, and run as Mels Drive-Ins.
1987 To The Future!
The Original Mels has now expanded to 22 restaurants, serving Northern California and Northern Nevada All-American Family favorites. The Original Mels is committed to honoring their 70-year legacy by continuing to serve great food at great value, treating customers as a family, caring and encouraging their own workers to achieve their own life goals. With as many lives as they are fortunate to come into touch with by spending their time, their money and their treatment, they also have a fundamental devotion to achieving and impacting meaningful change.
The company’s goal is to “Do something GREAT” each and every day!
Locations and Naming
There are a variety of Mel's that share the same general American Graffiti nostalgia theme and the similarly modeled Mel's logo in Northern California. They call these restaurants "Original Mels." Their locations are not listed on the official website of Mel's Drive-In, but they have their own website, and they are affiliated with an article in the Sacramento Business Journal.
The Weisses were caused to part ways by a family split and form two chains. In 1994, Elder Weiss sold his business to Larry Spergel, who assembled a group of approximately 50 stockholders who now own the chain. The site of Walnut Creek, California, provides a history of the original San Francisco Mel's.
Some places for Mel's Drive-In are not necessarily drive-ins, but rather diners. For instance, though developed in San Francisco, none of the city's locations currently serve food to the cars of patrons.
The signs and menus on the original Mel's Diners did not have, as would be predicted, a possessive apostrophe in the name. However, they decided to use the apostrophe in all Mel's Drive-In signs, literature, and media when Universal Studios recreated the diners at their theme parks in Hollywood, Orlando, Japan and Singapore.
Mel Weiss's son Steven Weiss and partner Donald Wagstaff opened the first of the next wave of Mel's Drive-In restaurants in 1985 after the last original Mel's closed in the 1970's. As of 2020, in Northern and Southern California, there are seven Mel drive-in locations and one Mel's Kitchen.
One spot near downtown San Francisco, rechristened Mel's Kitchen, has gone upscale, offering $12 drinks, $16 locally sourced beef burgers, ahi poke, acai smoothies, and avocado toast.
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DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse
BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews
CreAsian Wok 'n Roll
Black Angus Steakhouse
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