Only a few days after posting my original article about the amazing Buck Rogers Burger Station that was in Glasgow in the early 80s, I managed to get in touch with Ron McClure, who was the General Manager of the restaurant when it opened. I had a great chat with Ron on the phone. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him and he managed to iron out some of the details in my original post. If you haven’t already read the first post then go back and read it and then check out some of the further details from Ron below.

Ron is a qualified chef and he’s had an impressive 52 years in the catering industry. Before managing the Buck Rogers Burger Station he was the area manager for Wimpy. He controlled all the Wimpy restaurants in the whole of Scotland, from 1978 I believe. He then had his own restaurant just outside Edinburgh before moving on to Buck Rogers in 1982. After Bucks, he went on to introduce Dunkin’ Donuts to the UK. He was Operations Director for them and he opened the Dunkin’ Donuts on Argyle Street and at Trongate in Glasgow, at Loch Lomond and also at Heathrow Airport. Quite the resume.

Some time in early 1982, Ron’s wife was at a slimming club in Shawlands in Glasgow. A gentleman named Brian Waldman was staying at the same hotel that the slimming club was held at. Brian decided to pop down to the slimming club and got chatting to Ron’s wife and explained that he’s trying to open this new restaurant. Ron’s wife said that her husband Ron has been in the restaurant business all his life. And that’s how Ron got the job!

The restaurant was all the brainchild of Brian Waldman. He had the original concept of basing a restaurant on an established sci-fi theme. He chose Buck Rogers as the perfect property to use and obtained the licence from the owners in the US to start a restaurant franchise. Ron said that Brian was a very clever guy. Very switched on and a real entrepreneur. But he wasn’t the only person involved. He was one of four Directors. The money men behind it were Nat Norman and Ronny Freedman. Brian’s nephew, Charles Waldman, was the fourth director. Ron was 32 years old at the time. Charles was around the same age. Brian was about 20 years older and the others were in their sixties.

Ron was the General Manager when Buck Rogers Burger Station opened, but he was involved in the whole setup; the construction stages, kitchen design, staff recruitment, personnel, menu compilation, opening day, everything. I’d love to have been in those early meetings where they bounced off ideas about the decor, the menu names, the costumes and the recording studio.

We tried to pinpoint when the restaurant opened. Ron said that he was sure it wasn’t Winter, as it wasn’t cold, so he didn’t think it was November. It’s more likely it was August or September 1982. Ron was interviewed on Radio Clyde about the launch, and it was Michael Kelly, who was Lord Provost at the time, who opened it.

Ron was responsible for hiring and firing staff, and on the opening day he had to sack three employees! He had driven to Makro to buy four cases of champagne for the opening day because the Lord Provost was there etc, but three waitresses got pretty sloshed on the aforementioned champagne and had to be let go that day.

Alan Campbell was the name of the guy who played Twiki. He wore the Twiki costume when they had the Buck Rogers licence and then the alien mask after they lost the licence. Apparently he got lots of written warnings for his behaviour but he couldn’t be sacked because people that size didn’t grow on trees. Having a small actor in a Twiki costume was a massive draw for the restaurant and so he managed to hang in there.

Ron stated that he thinks the normal staff were paid £1.50 an hour but ‘actors’ like Alan got paid £2 an hour. They had about 100 staff in total. The Entertainments Manager was called Carol Rafferty.

To contrast with little Alan, they had put an advert in the Evening Times looking for really tall people. The ad stated a minimum height of 6’6”. The biggest one they got was 6’10”, and he used to put on the gorilla outfit and just walk around the restaurant for two hours. The costume used to hang up in Ron’s office, but when it got too smelly he insisted it hung up in the staff room.

Some of the outfits were from Tam Shepherd’s shop downstairs but not everything. Some of it was made by other people, such as a company in Bridgeton. Ron had a skip cap with lots of braiding on it, because he wasn’t General Manager, he was the ‘Commander’. A chair factory in Bridgeton made the cockpit of the spaceship.

There was indeed a big screen projector on the bridge showing the main Buck Rogers TV show on it. The other twenty or so smaller screens had the episodes that were filmed by the staff and other ‘actors’. Ron remembers that these videos were all pretty amateurish but good fun to film. For example one of the videos involved the staff serving a giant Knickerbocker Glory to an alien and the alien responding in some alien language.

Apparently the video recordings, shot in the studio upstairs, started from £25 depending on which scenes you wanted to be in. The video filming service lasted at least 9 months, Ron said, and they were extremely clever technical guys who did all that. I still think that’s such a great service to be offering in the early 80s. I’d love to know what equipment they were using.

The restaurant also had their own banknotes that they printed themselves, with Galactica or Galactic Credits on them, which you could buy with real money and then exchange for food within the restaurant. I wonder if anyone ever tried to counterfeit these! They also sold wee plastic spaceships with Buck Rogers logos on them, that had been stuck on by staff.

It was quite a state of the art kitchen too. It was the first kitchen that Ron had worked in that had a conveyor belt. Very sci-fi! He also had a teleprinter in the kitchen. A big one, about the size of a typewriter. Not many places had those at that time either, so it’s obvious that the franchise owners were putting a fair bit of money into this.

The restaurant seated 240. On Saturdays it was normally full. There was a queue down the stairs (you could fit about 25 in the close) and there was often a queue of about 40-50 people up the street. Brian was trying to prove to people in the industry that you don’t have to be on the main street to attract people. The Buck Rogers restaurant was up a close in Queen Street. They proved you could fill the place just due to the marketing they did, word of mouth and offering something unique.

Ron was there as General Manager for 9 months. He left after a disagreement with the directors. The restaurant later lost the licence due to ‘inappropriate business dealings’. Franchises are very strict and some people might have been taking too many liberties with the franchise rules.

The initial franchise was for Scotland, and then just before Ron left, Brian signed a deal for England. The next store after Glasgow was meant to be Edinburgh, and then Liverpool. Just imagine they had made it down to London with a big flagship restaurant somewhere near Leicester Square. That would have been amazing.

Ron thinks the restaurant was open for about 20 months in total. The licence lasted about a year and then about 8-9 more months as Buck’s Burger Station. He said he thinks that it could have been massive and it’s sad that it didn’t see its full potential. It really was something very unique and was a genius idea from Brian Waldman.

Ron now has his own fast food bar in East Kilbride which is very well known and has been going for 27 years. American style fast food, with over 130 things on the menu, as well as a Man v Food challenge. It’s called Ron’s Quality Snax, so make sure you check it out if you’re ever near East Kilbride.

Huge thanks to Ron for sparing some time out of his busy day to reminisce about this restaurant that has a very special place in the heart of so many Glaswegians.

If you haven’t already read it please read my original article about Buck Rogers Burger Station.