There was a time when Kelly’s Roast Beef in Revere sold more Coca-Cola than any restaurant in the world.
Kelly’s Roast Beef never closed for the Blizzard of 2013 last month, or for the famous Blizzard of 1978; instead loyal Kelly’s employees lodged themselves at the Revere Beach restaurant, and fed grateful plow-drivers, emergency crews, and newscasters.
Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque always orders two hotdogs with mustard and relish at the drive-through.
The Patriots stopped winning championships the day Robert Kraft decided to keep all concessions within Gillette Stadium, and Tom Brady stopped ordering Kelly’s Roast Beef for the team.
Steve Scali, chief financial officer, and Dan Doherty, director of business development, told me these stories seated at a table in the Saugus restaurant one snowy day last week. Scali is new to Kelly’s operations, but Doherty has worked for the family-owned business for 30 years, since he was a sophomore in high school. I was there to talk about the restaurant’s history, how deeply it’s cherished in the community, how the family-owned restaurants, which began on Revere Beach in 1951, are a great variation of what’s best about “local food.”
“Everyone has a Kelly’s story,” Doherty said, “usually something about the first time they drove up to the Revere restaurant with their family in a paneled station wagon and ordered fried clams, or about a first date at Kelly’s; there’s almost always a story about a french fry-stealing seagull.”
“Kelly’s is a culture,” Scali said. “Customers are loyal to the point that they pride themselves in which restaurant they go to.” (There are five: Saugus, the busiest; Natick; Danvers; Medford; and the original site in Revere.)
With the faux frustration of managing a success story, Doherty added, “we can’t change anything on the menu without causing an uproar.”