With 16 locations serving breakfast all day, hot coffee, made-from-scratch meatloaf and a variety of pies, Ram’s Horn restaurants seem to blend in to the local landscape all around suburban Detroit.
I knew that Ram’s Horn was a local, clean and quick spot to get an all-American diner-quality meal and unlimited coffee 24/7 whether you were on the east side or the west, but until I sat down with three generations of the Ram’s Horn family I had no idea how far deeply rooted the company is in Detroit restaurant history.
The Kasapis brothers — Eugene, Constantinos (Gus) and late brother Steve — opened the first Ram’s Horn in Cadillac Square in 1967, just after the summer of the city’s riots/rebellion. They already had years of restaurant experience under their belt working with their father, Demetri Kasapis, at his Receiving Lunch restaurant in Greektown. Around the time Ram’s Horn opened, Receiving Lunch closed when the elder Kasapis retired after 30 years.
By 1970, the brothers had opened a Ram’s Horn in Livonia and another location in Warren. They continued to open diners and franchise others “because it was fun.”
“We like the people, the challenge,” said Eugene Kasapis, whose children Kristy Kasapis Panos and Gene Kasapis own and operate Ram’s Horns today The family owns five locations and franchisees run the other 11.
“We would work with (our franchisees) and make sure they understood the business,” said Eugene, who said he still visits several locations each day. “They followed our system, our recipes, our style of service — service to us was No. 1, food was right there with it, but you had to get it there quickly, and it had to taste good and look good.”
Some of those franchisees like Kirk Ramsey at the Farmington location and Dave Adams from the Southgate Ram’s Horn both started as young employees and went on to own their own restaurants.
Ahead of its 50th anniversary the Kasapis family is looking to keep the Ram’s Horn brand strong. They have the family dining and senior citizen markets down pat, but like many chain restaurants, they know they need to attract young people.
They want diners to know that much of the food is made fresh and in-house. No bagged soup or reheated meatloaf here.
Owner Kristy Kasapis Panos, Eugene’s daughter, said that in spite of facing so much competition and dealing with diners’ changing tastes, the Ram’s Horn brand is stable.
“We’re good, but we want to make it great,” she said, adding that they’ve added trendier items like wraps, fresh spinach, avocado, cibatta rolls to their already huge menu that includes Italian, Mexican, seafood and comfort food favorites as well as the standard sandwiches, salads and soups.
“We’ve stayed true to our quality and freshness of food, making our soups from scratch every day with fresh produce. A lot of places don’t do that any longer.”
Constantinos said that while they’re not a “destination restaurant,” he has been to Detroit’s new spots like Selden Standard, Grey Ghost, Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails and spots in Corktown to see what diners are interested in.
“It gives us a pace of what the public is looking for and we try to adapt that into our family dining experience,” he said.
Besides celebrating 50 years since the first Ram’s Horn, the Westland restaurant at 7020 N. Wayne celebrated 20 years in April (with much of the same staff since the day they started). The other Wayne Ram’s Horn at 8590 Middlebelt celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
This fall all locations will celebrate the 50th milestone with customer appreciation specials and giveaways on their Instagram account, @RamsHornRestaurantOfficial.