Tulsa's 'French Hen Restaurant' is seeing business pickup, now that the war is over

Friday, June 13th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Friday night is restaurant night in Tulsa. And everywhere you look, tables are packed. But one longtime restaurant has struggled. It's not because of the food or the service.

Believe it or not, as News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg tells us, the name's to blame.

Nobody's happier than Richard Clark that the war is winding down in Iraq. You see, his restaurant was nearly a casualty. "I thought, maybe it's this French thing, I didn't think, nobody's that crazy to boycott an American restaurant that's called the French Hen." But then the phone calls started. “Some people just yelling at us and saying we'll never eat there and you're unpatriotic for having a French restaurant."

Clark says after months of full tables, business dropped by nearly half. As you could probably guess from his youthful appearance, Clark is just getting started in the restaurant biz. He took over the French Hen a couple of years ago and got rave reviews in the paper. But it's just his bad luck that a name that has been around for so long is suddenly the subject of French backlash. “It’s been the French Hen for 24 years, I'm from Oklahoma, I was born here, I buy American products.”

Steve Berg: "Richard Clark doesn't sound very French." Clark: "Not French at all, actually my heritage is Irish." Some callers demanded that Clark change the name, one even said he should paint a big red X over the name, but Clark thought it would be a shame to lose what has been a Tulsa tradition. "I thought about it, it's very expensive with signage and all that stuff, and it wouldn't be the same restaurant if I changed the name."

Besides he says there's no avoiding French cooking, regardless of a restaurant's name. "You can't really eat Western cuisine without having something French, I mean technique, they kind of wrote the book on it." As for this strange chapter in his life, Clark figures, C'est la vie.

Clark hasn't crunched the numbers for this past month, but he says it looks like business is picking back up.